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TED Talks India

Gautam Bhan: A bold plan to house 100 million people

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Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata -- all the major cities across India have one great thing in common: they welcome people arriving in search of work. But what lies at the other end of such openness and acceptance? Sadly, a shortage of housing for an estimated 100 million people, many of whom end up living in informal settlements. Gautam Bhan, a human settlement expert and researcher, is boldly reimagining a solution to this problem. He shares a new vision of urban India where everyone has a safe, sturdy home. (In Hindi with English subtitles)

- Urbanist
Gautam Bhan studies how cities produce and reproduce poverty and inequality. Full bio

Shah Rukh Khan: Be it Mumbai or Delhi,
Chennai or Kolkata,
00:12
all our big cities have
one great thing in common,
00:14
they happily welcome people from
smaller places arriving in search of work.
00:17
What is also true is that
this warm welcome leads to consequences.
00:23
Problems like housing
in these cities are born.
00:29
Today we have with us a human settlement
expert and researcher: Dr. Gautam Bhan,
00:32
who is re-imagining a solution
to this increasing problem.
00:37
He will share with us the new picture
of urban India that he can see.
00:41
TED Talks India New Thoughts
welcomes Dr. Gautam Bhan.
00:47
Dr. Gautam Bhan, everyone.
00:50
(Applause)
00:51
Gautam Bhan: In this country,
until a few years ago,
01:03
if you asked someone:
01:05
"Where are you from?"
01:07
the answer would be
Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata.
01:09
You'd immediately ask again:
01:13
"Where do you belong?"
01:16
Until recently in India,
nobody was from a city;
01:19
people only migrated to the city.
01:24
This is changing.
01:26
Urbanization is changing India,
01:28
but are our cities prepared?
01:32
Let's assume you were born somewhere else.
01:35
Your parents worked as laborers all day.
01:38
Then you too would have come
to a city for progress.
01:43
Or maybe, like it happens today,
you were born in the city itself.
01:46
One day you go out looking
for an accommodation in the city,
01:49
to buy or maybe just to rent.
01:54
Will you be able find an affordable home?
01:57
The government says we are falling
short of at least 20 million homes.
02:02
20 million homes,
that's 100 million people.
02:07
And this is not the shortage of 3 BHKs
(bedroom hall kitchen).
02:11
95 percent of the shortage
02:14
is for people earning
10 to 15,000 rupees per month.
02:16
Will you be able to find
an affordable home in this budget?
02:20
If this happened with you,
what would you do?
02:24
Home is not a car
or some sort of jewellery.
02:27
Home is food and clothes.
02:29
Nobody can live without it.
02:31
If you couldn't find a home
in a city to either buy or rent,
02:34
you too would be driven to do
what most people end up doing.
02:37
Make a home wherever possible.
02:42
You too would make a settlement.
02:46
The government may keep calling it a slum,
02:48
but like the people living there,
02:51
I too will call it a settlement.
02:53
One hundred million are not homeless.
02:56
They have homes.
02:59
Homes they built on their own.
03:01
But most of these homes
are in settlements.
03:03
This is the truth
of an affordable home in India.
03:07
The homes in settlements are cheap,
but not sturdy.
03:11
The homes outside are sturdy,
but not cheap.
03:15
(Applause)
03:19
We will have to lay the foundation
of a new thought from here itself.
03:22
A settlement is not a problem;
it is a solution.
03:26
We just have to make it secure and sturdy.
03:31
To fulfill the shortage
of 20 million homes
03:34
you cannot make 20 million
25 square foot flats,
03:37
and neither should you be making them.
03:43
For example take the Karnataka government.
03:45
They have a very good record in this.
03:49
By 2020, Karnataka needs
2.6 million homes.
03:53
In the last ten years they have managed
to make 350,000 homes.
03:58
Even if a government tries
with complete sincerity,
04:02
it cannot fulfill this need
in the next couple of lifetimes.
04:07
If we do not make new homes,
04:10
then what is the next solution?
04:13
How to make a settlement secure?
04:15
Firstly, eviction needs to be stopped.
04:17
Bulldozing needs to be stopped.
04:20
Never has that resulted
in progress in the past,
04:23
nor will it in the future.
04:25
(Applause)
04:26
We have to start believing that
the laborers who build and run the city
04:31
have a right over the land of that city.
04:36
(Applause)
04:38
I know you are thinking
04:42
that settlements are made
on illegally captured land,
04:44
but capturing of land never happens
in the dead of the night.
04:48
Whether the land belongs
to the government or not,
04:52
a settlement is never formed secretly.
04:55
It is inhabited over time.
04:58
The government also agrees that
04:59
the settlements in our cities have been
there for over 10, 20, 30, even 40 years.
05:01
What kind of
illegally captured land is this,
05:07
which was ignored for 30 years
05:09
and suddenly a day before eviction
is declared illegal?
05:12
A settlement can easily accommodate
15 to 60 percent of a city's population
05:17
by using just one, two
or maximum ten percent of the land.
05:22
Can such a huge number of people not have
a right over this small bit of land?
05:27
A city's progress is often measured
by the cost of its land.
05:31
How do you ascribe a cost to the life
of a person living on a piece of land?
05:35
A settlement is not asking you
for shiny homes;
05:38
all it's asking for is basic necessities:
05:42
electricity, roads, water,
toilets and drainage.
05:45
We call this upgradation.
05:50
Here's an example of upgradation.
05:55
In Ahmedabad, they started a program
05:57
where for ten years, 44 settlements were
promised there wouldn't be any eviction.
05:59
Only a promise.
06:03
Nothing written, no documents.
06:05
And basic necessities
were provided to them.
06:07
In ten years that slum changed into
a locality, a place, a world of its own.
06:10
The government didn't have to build
even a single new home.
06:16
(Applause)
06:19
Thailand launched this program
at national scale,
06:24
benefiting 100,000 people in 137 cities.
06:29
And every person was given the right
to live over that land.
06:33
But pay attention here.
06:38
Not the right to sell,
but the right to live there,
06:39
use it, settle on it.
06:43
The whole world knows now
that to move forward,
06:46
we cannot remove settlements.
06:51
We can only advance when we think of ways
to make settlements secure and sturdy.
06:53
But just one thing.
06:59
If we know it, then why doesn't it happen?
07:00
To apply this new thinking to settlements,
07:03
we, that is you and me,
need to look deep within
07:06
and get rid of the disgust, disrespect
and apprehensions that we have.
07:10
Actually I should not be standing
here in front of you today.
07:18
A person from the settlement who lives
there should be standing here.
07:22
But if someone like that came here,
you wouldn't have listened to him.
07:29
You are listening to me, because you think
I am not from a settlement.
07:34
This is the very thought
that needs to be changed.
07:38
Thank you.
07:42
(Applause)
07:42
SRK: Thank you very much.
Thank you, Dr. Gautam Bhan.
07:51
Thanks a lot.
07:53
Please tell me, you just gave
an example of Thailand
07:55
and the big thing there is
07:58
the homes are for people
to settle in, not to sell.
08:00
They cannot be used for sale.
08:04
Is there a similar thought process
or program in our country too,
08:07
inspired by your talks
and those of people around you?
08:11
GB: I wouldn't say by me,
08:14
but by the people movement
who are fighting for rights in the city.
08:16
That is making a difference.
08:22
For instance, in Odisha
08:24
the Chief Minister, Mr. Patnaik,
announced the same scheme:
08:25
that all the people in settlements
will have rights over that land.
08:30
(Applause)
08:35
And I think this scheme
shouldn't be called populism;
08:38
it should be called an economic
development strategy.
08:43
Because economic development does not
happen from the top, but from the bottom.
08:45
(Applause)
08:50
SRK: I too promise
08:54
I will only say settlements,
and not slums, ever again. 100 percent.
08:56
(Applause)
09:00
Dr. Bhan you came here and said such
wonderful things.
09:03
There is a song. I will not sing it,
as I am a terrible singer.
09:07
GB: I too am a terrible singer.
09:10
SRK: But we can't keep shut also,
because we are saying wonderful things.
09:12
(laughter)
09:15
So we will just say it.
09:16
Slowly the heart will find settlement.
09:17
GB: Slowly the heart will find settlement.
09:20
SRK: Only then will life be filled
with love and fun times.
09:22
(Applause)
09:25
Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Gautam Bhan.
Thank you.
09:26
(Applause)
09:28
Thank you very much.
09:29
(Applause)
09:30

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About the speaker:

Gautam Bhan - Urbanist
Gautam Bhan studies how cities produce and reproduce poverty and inequality.

Why you should listen

Gautam Bhan's work is based in and emerges from particular cities that for a long time were thought to be "peripheral" -- Delhi, Mumbai, Cairo, Lagos, Jakarta and Johannesburg -- cities of what is sometimes today called the "global south." He feels passionate about producing knowledge not just about these cities but doing so from them. For too long, he says, "Southern cities have been places for others to come and fix, rather than places with their own ways of getting things done that work for us."

Bhan believes that urbanization in the global south is one of the most profound challenges of the 21st century. It's in these cities that many of the battles of sustainability and equity will either be won or lost. He found his way to these questions in his own city -- New Delhi -- through forced evictions, the brutal demolition of the homes of the city's poorest who lived in informal settlements that brought him to his work on housing and the right to the city. His research is informed by his own political engagement both as an anti-eviction activist as well as someone working with the government to prevent evictions from occurring in the first place. 

Bhan teaches as the Indian Institute for Human Settlements in Bangalore, a new educational institution that shares his intent of bringing together teaching, research and practice on the city as well as producing knowledge from the south. In 2017, he authored In the Public’s Interest: Evictions, Citizenship and Inequality in Contemporary Delhi (Orient Blackswan/University of Georgia Press), as well as co-edited the Routledge Companion to Planning in the Global South (Routledge). He writes as much publicly as academically and is a frequent columnist in Indian newspapers, blogs and online. He is also the co-founder of New Text, and he's deeply involved in sexuality rights movements in India.

More profile about the speaker
Gautam Bhan | Speaker | TED.com