The Bhuj Homes in the City process is an inspiring example of bottom-up, socially and ecologically sensitive democracy, focusing on the right to participate and engage in a dialogue.
The Homes in the City program was an organic outcome of years of work on governance, women’s empowerment, environment, infrastructure and housing by civil society organisations (CSOs) that had emerged as a collective under Kachchh Nav Nirman Abhiyan (Building a New Kachchh Campaign) after the devastating cyclone in 1998. These CSOs worked towards relief and rehabilitation in the immediate aftermath of the twin disasters, but with a long-term perspective of strengthening decision-making processes, and collaborating on generating, sharing, synthesising knowledge and resources to empower local communities.
Garnering experiences from this work, five CSOs initiated work towards a common vision of direct democracy and dignified lives for citizens in Bhuj. Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan and SETU Abhiyan focused on the mobilisation and empowerment of communities; Hunnarshala focused on technical inputs for construction of houses, canals and other infrastructure; Arid Communities and Technologies (ACT) worked on ensuring water self-reliance in a highly drought-prone region; and Sahjeevan focused on environment and biodiversity-related issues. The CSOs focused on strengthening forgotten skills of collective work, re-designing welfare, making arrangements for basic services by creating space for democratic dialogue, collaboration, and seeking accountability from the state.