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Exploring Gendered Wellbeing in Slum Resettlement Project in Odisha,India

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With support of a grant from Resource Equity, Gautam Prateek, Aathira Krishnan and Pranamesh Kar conducted research titled “Exploring Gendered Wellbeing in Slum Resettlement Project in Odisha, India”. This research was commissioned as part of Resource Equity’s initiative to support new research and evidence on the question of the effectiveness of land tenure reforms to improve women’s lives.

To meet the twin aims of human welfare and economic growth, efforts to improve property rights and basic services through regularization and formalization of informal settlements began in the 1970s and became widespread by the 1990s. Landlessness is a significant problem in India. Nearly 23% of Odisha’s population live in urban slums. Odisha has been working on slum policies since the 1980s and has been a pioneer in women’s land tenure rights. The Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dwellers Act of 2017 is one of the world’s largest slum titling program for the urban poor. The OSDA (2017) grants land rights to small parcels (between 30–60m2) of state-owned land to landless occupants. The act prioritizes granting land and conducting redevelopment in-situ where possible, but also permits ex-situ development and relocation if necessary. Land is granted without cost to those from Economically Weaker Sections and at minimal price settlement for other eligible for land titling. Importantly, land titles must include the names of both spouses in the case of land granted to a married person.

This paper explores the large-scale slum resettlement project in Odisha, India for its effects on gendered wellbeing of the residents; specifically, whether joint land titling improves women’s wellbeing. The paper examines women’s subjective perception of their own wellbeing following joint titling and resettlement from the project. Data was collected from personal interviews and field observations in three wards in Odisha in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Key Findings

Many interviews revealed significant levels of confusion and uncertainty regarding the project details, its implementation timeline, and intended benefits. Particular concerns were noted regarding receipt – or lack thereof – of financing to construct new homes and build out services. A range of response seems to indicate that residents who were members of Slum Development Association committees had much better participation in decision-making and were better informed about the project. Interviews in the two more ethnically diverse wards revealed concerns by residents of outsiders marrying or moving into the wards to get the benefits of land titles. Sanitation and safety concerns were expressed in all wards, but especially ward 8, where private toilets attached to a household are rare. Livelihood concerns were pronounced for residents of ward 8 who predominantly depend on fishing and related services for income. Lack of access to formal credit is a significant obstacle for successful resettlement and self-reliance. Interviews showed that there was broad awareness among women about the joint-title provisions and how that benefited the family and them personally. A final theme regarding the project is dissatisfaction by residents who do not qualify for free land, or who claim more land than is distributed for free, and who must pay a settlement. Interviews note surprise at the fee and its perceived high amount.

The interviews highlight that tenure security provided by the issuance of joint titles is only a component of what the respondents felt important for their wellbeing. Women regularly expressed that access to public services, like water, sanitation, hygiene, electricity for households and education for children were very important to their wellbeing. Livelihood concerns related to infrastructure and credit were noted by many women but were of primary importance to wellbeing for the male respondents. The findings point toward a need for greater awareness of and speedy implementation of the provisions linked to the policies and programs attached to the OSDA (2017). 

To read more about the research and outcomes, access the full paper here.

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