The hinge of this book is 15 August 1947, the day India became independent. The new leaders of the nation formulated many goals for India’s speedy development. Among these was the promise to provide all urban citizens with decent housing, and thus to clear all slums. This promise structures this book. It is divided into two sets of questions. The first one refers to the past. It was apparently necessary to express concern about the poor housing and sanitary provisions for many citizens before 1947. What was hence the situation of urban living during the approximately 150 years of colonial rule? What measures were taken (or not taken) for improvement? The promise to provide decent housing in independent India structures the second part of this book through a second set of questions. What were the public actions to bring the promise nearer by? What has been realized, what faded away finally? The analysis ends in the mid-1960s when the role of public actors with regard to housing and the living environment diminished and the idea of ‘self-help’ and just marginal improvements of hut areas gained ground. Finally, some answers to the question why Indian society has as yet not been able to find adequate answers to the lack of decent housing for a majority of its citizens, are formulated.
The book brings detailed in-depth knowledge on urban housing and sanitation on several Indian cities together in a comparative manner and places this local knowledge in a broader context, crossing urban borders.
Hans Schenk worked at the University of Amsterdam, where he taught, did research and was involved in consultancies, with a focus on housing, planning and related aspects of urban Asia. He has published widely during the last 50 years, on many large and small Indian and other Asian cities.