When one talks of Indian cities, images of a myriad of colours, smells, and sounds jump up in our imagination. These bazaars and street vendors are the very heart and soul of Indian identity, the reason for its tourism, and the path and destination of urban and public life. But who are these street vendors and service providers? These are most often migrants from neighbouring towns and villages; bordering states; and refugees from neighbouring countries.
Most of these people live in small ‘slum’ like housing colonies, in small rooms, as squatters, with poor infrastructure facilities, and hardly any open outdoor space. The 'urban poor' and their habitats are often the most debated topic by the urban planners and the ‘elite class’ who view them as an embarrassment and an unsightly view from their high rise windows and balconies. Their views are often reinforced by the urban planners and urban designers who find it difficult to fit these impromptu and informal (often illegal) markets within their scientific and modular grids.
PARA: The Neighbourhood
Program Addressing Regeneration Activities in Urban Areas: A program started to understand the problems of the 'urban poor' and help improve the overall condition of urban neighbourhoods through participation of all stakeholders by having regular interaction with the members of the neighbourhood and other stakeholders through sensitisation, outreach, and other activities. The expected outcome of the program is the general improvement in the overall condition of the neighbourhood especially related to services like drainage, garbage, traffic, encroachment, etc. and to improve the quality of life of the people living there and empower them in developing their voice, if needed, and presenting them to the higher authorities. Finally, the program intends in developing a cohesive group/ club that can continue the work of development in the area beyond the lifetime of the program. The role of Mansara would be vision development and as a monitoring agency, but it shall not execute the program.
PARA is currently involved with two such programs, Southern Avenue (PARA) with Architecture Fringe, UK, on the street vendors of Southern Avenue, Kolkata, and Scottish Cemetery (PARA) with the Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust, Edinburgh as a Community led Urban Regeneration Program around the Scottish Cemetery, Kolkata.