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Women Leaders Struggle for Water Taps and Security in the Indian Slums

About 65 million people live in India's slums, according to official data

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Slum dwellers
Children from Indian slums. VOA

Ahmedabad, August 22, 2017: Hansaben Rasid knows what it is like to live without a water tap or a toilet of her own, constantly fearful of being evicted by city officials keen on tearing down illegal settlements like hers in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.

The fear and lack of amenities are but a memory today, after she became a community leader in the Jadibanagar slum and pushed residents to apply for a program that gave them facilities and a guarantee of no evictions for 10 years.

“We didn’t even have a water tap here — we had to fetch water from the colony near by, and so much time went in just doing that. People kept falling sick because there was just one toilet,” she said.

“Now that we have individual water taps and toilets, we can focus on work and the children’s education. Everyone’s health has improved, and we don’t need to be afraid of getting evicted any day,” she said, seated outside her home.

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Jadibanagar, with 108 homes, is one of more than 50 slums in Ahmedabad that have been upgraded by Parivartan — meaning “change” — a program that involves city officials, slum dwellers, a developer and a nonprofit organization.

Every household pays 2,000 rupees ($31) and in return, each home gets a water tap, a toilet, a sewage line and a stormwater drain. The slum gets street lights, paved lanes and regular garbage collection.

Each home also pays 80 rupees as an annual maintenance fee, and the city commits to not evicting residents for 10 years.

Negotiation skills

A crucial part of the program is the involvement of a woman leader who brings residents on board, deals with city officials and oversees the upgrade.

Nonprofit Mahila Housing Trust has trained women residents to be community leaders in a dozen cities in the country, including more than 60 in Ahmedabad.

“Women are responsible for the basic needs of the family, and most also work at home while the husband works outside, so the lack of a water tap or a toilet affects them more,” said Bharati Bhonsale, program manager at Mahila Housing Trust.

“Yet they traditionally have had little influence over policy decisions and local governance. We train them in civic education, build their communication and negotiation skills, and teach them to be leaders of the community,” she said.

About 65 million people live in India’s slums, according to official data, which activists say is a low estimate.

That number is rising quickly as tens of thousands of migrants leave their villages to seek better prospects in urban areas. Many end up in overcrowded slums, lacking even basic facilities and with no claim on the land or their property. Yet slum dwellers have long opposed efforts to relocate them to distant suburbs, which limits their access to jobs. Instead, they favor upgrading of their slums or redevelopment.

Earlier this month, officials in the eastern state of Odisha said they would give land rights to slum dwellers in small towns and property rights to those in city settlements in a “historic” step that will benefit tens of thousands.

In Gujarat state, as Jadibanagar is on private land, it is not eligible for the city’s redevelopment plan.

“These homes are all illegal, but that doesn’t mean the people cannot live decently,” said Bhonsale.

“With redevelopment, there is demolition and a move, and that can take longer to convince people of, with the men usually making the decision. But with an upgrade, the women make the decision very quickly by themselves,” she said.

Bottom up

Elsewhere, in Delhi’s Savda Ghevra slum resettlement colony where about 30,000 people live, nonprofit Marg taught women residents to demand their legal right to water, sanitation and transport.

A group of women then filed Right to Information petitions, to improve their access to drinking water, buses and sanitation.

“The women bear the brunt of not having these amenities, and are therefore most motivated to do something about the situation,” said Anju Talukdar, director of Marg.

“The leaders are the ones who show up for meetings, are engaged and keen to learn how to use the law to improve their lives,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Contrary to perceptions that slums are run by petty criminals who resist efforts to redevelop or upgrade, women leaders in Jadibanagar and Savda Ghevra are actively engaged in bettering everyone’s lives.

Leaders often emerge from a bottom-up process, with reputations for getting things done — in particular, resisting evictions and securing basic services, according to research by Adam Auerbach at the American University and Tariq Thachil at Vanderbilt University.

“They are themselves ordinary residents, living with their families and facing the same vulnerabilities and risks as their neighbors; they, too, want paved roads, clean drinking water, proper sanitation and schools for their children,” they said.

Women leaders, while still a minority, are “rarely token figures” serving male heads of households, and are “just as active, assertive and locally authoritative as their male counterparts,” they said in an email.

Rasid in Jadibanagar, whose two sons and their families live in homes alongside hers, is certain her leadership helped residents improve their homes and their lives.

“Everyone wants security and nicer homes, and they are willing to pay. Someone just has to get it done,” she said.

“I am illiterate, I cannot read, but I know now how to talk to officials and the developer and tell them what we want, and make sure they deliver,” she said. (VOA)

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Dassault Systemes Mulling To Invest More For The Development Of The EV Ecosystem

With the government setting a target of 2023 to step up the adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in India, global 3D design company Dassault Systemes is mulling to invest more for the development of the EV ecosystem

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Electric Vehicles, India, Dassault Systemes, Invest
Electric Vehicle Charging Point Stockholm City, Sweden. Wikimedia Commons

With the government setting a target of 2023 to step up the adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in India, global 3D design company Dassault Systemes is mulling to invest more for the development of the EV ecosystem in the country, a top company executive said on Sunday.

When it comes to Electric Vehicles, India is the most interesting market because it is able to think about innovation, and is involved in a lot of testing and trying to find new disruptive ways, according to Florence Verzelen, Executive Vice President, Industry Marketing, Global Affairs and Communication, Dassault Systemes.

“Now the customers are looking for mobility from point A to point B that is cheap and sustainable without too much emission. So our customers are transforming their business models to provide electric and autonomous vehicles and that may not necessarily be cars,” Verzelen told IANS.

Electric Vehicles, India, Dassault Systemes, Invest
Two-, three- and four-wheelers, which are battery operated, will not have to pay fees for renewal of the registration certificate. Pixabay

“It can be a combination of cars and scooters. We are providing these industries with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to innovate and design the innovation of the vehicle as well as the plant,” Verzelen said.

The 3DEXPERIENCE major, which offers product lifecycle management (PLM) and 3D modelling software, simulation apps and industry solutions, has just announced a partnership with Mahindra Electric Mobility wherein the latter will deploy Dassault Systemes’ SIMULIA family of applications to drive innovation via digital simulation for its existing line-up of EV models and the recently expanded portfolio.

Using the company’s SIMULIA applications, powered by the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, Mahindra Electric has performed thermal, structural, electromagnetic interference, electromagnetic compatibility (EMI-EMC) of critical parts like battery enclosures, and battery management systems for realistic simulation before any physical prototyping.

According to Samson Khaou, Managing Director, India, Dassault Systemes: “We are aligned with the country’s mission for a sustainable and green mobility landscape. EVs are certainly a way forward and we are geared up to address the EV requirements with our portfolio of industry solution experiences based on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to address each of the segments — OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), suppliers and startups in the automotive industry.”

The 3DEXPERIENCE major is also working with several startups and other firms that aim to change the energy sector in the country.

“A few days ago in Bengaluru, a startup called Log9 Materials showcased leverages graphene nanotechnology for development of enhanced and commercially viable aluminum-air catteries which would revolutionise the energy sector,” added Verzelen.

 

Electric Vehicles, India, Dassault Systemes, Invest
Dassault Systèmes Logo. Wikimedia Commons

Apart from EV makers, the firm is in talks with both public and private sector companies in industries like marine, offshore and industrial equipment and energy.

“We have 2700+ people working with us in India and it is a very important market for us. We also have a lot of partners who are selling solutions with us and we are focusing on industries that are undergoing significant transformation such as transportation and mobility, aerospace and defence, life sciences, construction and smart cities,” noted Verzelen.

Extremely bullish on India, Dassault Systemes is also looking to open more innovation centres in the country. It currently has the maximum number of innovation centres in India.

“We have more innovation centres in India than in Europe and we are super interested in opening more. We definitely have plans for that. I hope the next time I come to India, I can formally announce the opening of a new centre,” Verzelen told IANS

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More than one third of the company’s workforce is in India and it is mulling to increase the headcount considering the innovations happening in the country. Dassault Systemes’ R&D centre is located in Pune.

“We have a total of 12 different brands which have a specialised team in India, focusing on different aspects of the technologies that we provide. We have a lot of brands and they require lots of research,” Verzelen said.

“We are very selective about our R&D centres. We have no R&D centre in China, and have limited resources in Singapore. Apart for resources in Japan and the US, we have a huge centre in France. India is the country that we look at when it comes to R&D,” Verzelen noted. (IANS)