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Increasing socio-religious segregation, marginalization in Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Pune: Reliance thinktank study

Counterview Desk
Finding residential segregation by religion, particularly in the case of Muslims, a growing phenomenon in most large and medium cities, which are already saddled with a history of communalism, a new study has found that the earlier segmentation on the basis of class has now been replaced by religion.
Titled “A Tale of Three Cities: India's Exclusionary Urbanisation”, by Niranjan Sahoo, senior fellow with Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) think tank, the study is based on household surveys carried out in Ahmedabad, Varanasi and Pune, says.
“The poorest neighbourhoods in the surveyed cities are largely overpopulated by residents belonging to dalits, adivasi and Muslims”, the study finds, adding, “What is more important to note is that residential segregation based on socioeconomic status has plenty of consequences for its inhabitants. For example, the location of slums or squatter colonies has a direct bearing on the levels of municipal services that these residents are able to access.”
“Compared to their counterparts with similar socio-economic characteristics in the inner parts of a city, families living in informal settlements located in the city's margins were found to be receiving inadequate municipal services such as drinking water, sanitation, education, healthcare, and food stamps”, the study says.
“The neighbourhoods located in the middle of Varanasi and Ahmedabad were not in any significant way better-off than the ones located in the peripheries. A deeper probe revealed that often, the socio-religious characteristics of a slum or neighbourhood also determined access to municipal services”, the study says.
“Settlements with large Muslim populations and those with large communities of new immigrants face higher degrees of discrimination and institutionalised apathy when it comes to the delivery of basic services”, the study says, providing the example of two close-by neighbourhoods of Juhapura, a predominantly Muslim ghetto, and Yogeshwar Nagar (under Vasna settlement), an overwhelming Hindu settlement in Ahmedabad.
The study says, there exists “identity-based exclusion in cities with long communal history (while the same serves inclusion for others)”, pointing out that this could “serve as a wakeup call for the country's urban planners and policymakers in overseeing the goals of inclusive urbanisation.”
Pointing out that “the exclusionary processes take a slightly different turn when it comes to migrants. While all migrants face various disadvantages in a city, it is much more severe in the case of new migrants”, the study says, “Irrespective of their identities or socio-religious characteristics, nearly all new migrants face exclusionary barriers in cities for a wide variety of reasons.”
  “For example, new migrants in the surveyed cities complain of having little or no access to critical municipal services such as food stamps and social welfare schemes, due to their lack of requisite documents such as proofs of residence and identity”, it says.
The study says, “They are unfamiliar with the local leaders and elected representatives in their city, they not only fail to register their grievances with these officials but, more importantly, they remain unaware of the processes for obtaining the necessary documents and navigating the bureaucracy.”
It concludes, “Far from being a melting pot and harbingers of social mobility, the three cities increasingly resemble their rural counterparts. There is a growing trend of residential segregation by caste, religion, and socio-economic characteristics.”

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