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Migration And Rights To City – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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Migration and Rights to City

Session Report
Harshaa Kawatra

Urban Policy & City Planning is an online one-month online immersive certificate training course organized by Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at Impact and Policy Research Institute, IMPRI, New Delhi in the month of July 2023. An informative panel discussion on the topic “Migration and Rights to City” was held on July 19, 2023, by Prof R B Bhagat, Former Professor and Head, Department of Migration & Urban Studies, International Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai.

The session was set about with welcoming remarks by the chair of the session, Dr Rumi Aijaz. He conveyed about the session’s topics that, when we try to understand a country’s demography, migration plays an important role. Different types of migration include seasonal, daily or long term migration. Moreover, for a planner who is responsible for guiding development of settlements, these movements are essential for information. Migration is also a significant indicator of population growth. However, migration data is complex and is often unreached or delayed to planners. 

Economics and Urbanization 

Prof R B Bhagat introduced his session and explained the significance of Right to City. He said that as global citizens we are living in urban societies and economies. In such a scenario, the idea that is unfolding is urbanization which is not critically analyzed. This includes the transformation of spaces and places.

Additionally, we have concentration of economic activities in such hubs which further links to concentration of population. Both of the concentrations lead to a bigger size of spaces, helping the economies to grow and flourish. He also mentioned some common economic activities that take place like production, cost benefit etc. To add to his argument, he said that around 65% of digital growth in GDP comes from urban areas in India. 

He also emphasized how urbanization does not only create economic activities and growth but also leads to concentration of wealth. This adversely leads to inequalities. Especially, when people move from rural areas to urban ones, we see a paradigm shift in activities. He also explained different kinds of urbanization like sustainable, paradigm, thinking and inclusive etc.

Moreover, he told how cities and civilizations have emerged whenever the urbanization process has taken place. He quoted the example of Indus and Magadh civilization. Moreover, such civilizations do not only focus on economic factors but also involve social and political aspects. A pertinent question he raised was the effect of urbanization post Industrial Revolution and in the past century.

Right to City   

The Right to City has been given by Henri Lefebvre, a French Sociologist. He wrote a paper on Right to City in 1968 when students were uprising in France. This uprising was joined by many working-class people and different strata of people. The right questions if we have the right to make and remake our cities. It develops a relationship between people and place. This relationship helps us to know who gets what and what is enough.

It is an urban imagination in other words. Before major revolutions, people considered cities as a piece of art and creativity. But when cities got commodified, people started settling in, wealth distribution occurred, and economic activities started taking place. Wealth and environment in such cases must be looked at as a repository. 

Focusing on commodification, he explained how it has led to an increase in inequalities. The urge of capitalists to accumulate and prosper wealth in the name of urbanization has also led to exploitation of natural resources like land and water. Forest degradation, ground-water level going down etc. were discussed in detail. He also expressed how Right to City should not mean people can re-enter cities, it is there to restore people and should be used as a collective right as opposed to an individual one. 

Further, the right has been talked about through an article in 2008 by David Harvey. It is an appreciable critique on how to raise people’s voice, how to create and raise awareness through participation and democratization of the same. He also said this right actually subsumes all the other rights including Civic, Political and Social rights. It is a way of uniting people in turn.

Ways to promote Right to City

  1. Local democracy and Urban democracy
  2. Expert driven ideas
  3. Inclusion 

Migration and Urbanization

The speaker said that migration and urbanization go hand in hand. One important point is that there is actually no city which has developed without migration. All metropolitan and developed cities are based on migration. Migration also highlights diversity and nativism. All in all, it is an essential key to urbanization.

After the enlightening session, Dr. Rumi Aijaz presented his remarks. He expressed how it was informative and interesting. He explained that the session helped the audience to understand the kind of urbanization India is witnessing. Effects of urbanization were discussed in detail which actually show both the good and the bad. Rights of migrants were also a highlight. Followed by his remarks, questions were raised. The questions focused on distinction of urban place and space, post COVID-19 effect on migration, right to movement and amendments, rural development etc. After an interactive question-answer session, the guest was thanked for the lecture and the session moved ahead to the next speaker.

Harshaa is a Research Intern at IMPRI.

See picture gallery from the session on Instagram: IMPRI (@impriindia) • Instagram photos and videos

Read more session reports for Urban Policy & City Planning:

An overview of Urban planning in India
Mobility and Urban Transport in India

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