Most Indian cities and particularly the metros are usually characterized by vibrant and complex economies. What does being poor and chronically poor mean within these settings? The MDGs state the need to halve the world's poor. Can one go beyond what is useful rhetoric to spur action and define agendas? How the other half exists may be closely connected to the half that moves up. Does how the half that loses out reflect claims lost to an assertive elite in increasingly divided cities?
Poor groups rely on complex urban economic and political systems to survive and move up (Benjamin and Bhuveshwari, 2001). Efforts at poverty reduction by the state and central governments (except for the PDS system) had a marginal role as did poverty projects including those that involved NGOs in a major way. These interventions (both public programs and NGO projects) at best did not recognize and at the worst went against exisiting social/economic and political processes which poor groups used. Based on grassroots research this paper tries to specify what really makes a difference. For instance, our earlier work showed that an empowered municipal body helps provide access to public water taps and supports, if not promotes, a regulatory setting in contested land locations that maintain or even reinforce defacto claims. This is mainly since local councilors, relative to other players, are more likely to reinforce \"voice\". Thus, government, especially municipal government, does matter. Evictions from productive central city areas, reducing the number of public water standposts (in the name of \"reform\" and privatization), disruption of land development systems that supply small plots and a vibrant rental market in the name of \"planned development\", demolition of small shops and also larger urban renewal to allow mega infrastructure projects in the name of \"global competitiveness\" - all constitute \"bad government\" and matter too.
The poor, and the poorest in the most fragile situations, are active political and economic agents. Such \"bad government\" spur events that push them into chronic poverty. At other times, when poor groups could improve their own situation, this was due to use of influence or power rather than the benefits of a program.
Statistics on the poor are collected from an accounting perspective rather than understanding the context within which poor groups struggle. We have approached the issue in a more qualitative way. To undertake this research, we revisited 8 to 10 families who had been interviewed several years ago to identify and explore processes that reinforced or helped them escape situations of extreme poverty. We also included cases on street children, another vulnerable group. Bangalore is the location of several mega infrastructure development projects and has witnessed a series of ethnic riots in the southern Master Planned areas, and we interviewed families there too. Earlier work highlighted the existence of strong local communities in West Bangalore mostly around \"slum\", highly politicized local environment, with several ethnic groups that shared economic links. In the southern master plan locations of Bangalore, we undertook some very preliminary interviews with families living within incomplete public housing projects. They were victims of a brutal ethnic violence, preceded by eviction and resettlement to create new \"housing\". The tension in south Bangalore indicated that the Master Planning processes placed the poorest groups in a difficult power struggle - very different from West Bangalore. Master Plan is one of the main factors in diluting the claims of the poorest and provides opportunities for local space to be captured by external political agents playing the ethnic card.
From Income to Urban Contest inGlobal Settings:Chronic Poverty in Bangalore, CPRC-IIPA Working Paper No. 4, Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 59 pp. [This paper has been published as a chapter in a book entitled Chronic Poverty in India, edited by Aasha Kapur Mehta, Sourabh Ghosh, Deepa Chatterjee, Nikhila Menon, IIPA/CPRC, 2003, 389 pp.]