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Building a New Media Platform to Re-imagine Bholakpur

Bholakpur is an area in old Hyderabad, India, situated just east of the Hussain Sagar Lake, a body of water both physically and symbolically at the heart of the city.

Administratively, it is one of the 150 wards looked after by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), the authority responsible for the day to day functioning of the city.

The administrative area of the GHMC

The administrative area of the GHMC

As a result of a complex historical process, Bholakpur is now distinguished by a concentration of small and mid-size informal scrap recycling and raw-hide processing units, much to the ire of the area's growing middle class community.

Eager to remove these businesses from the neighborhood, this middle class community along with real estate groups (who see this area as an investment opportunity) have been very successful in producing a public image of Bholakpur as a place of high risk and danger due to the presence of this waste economy and the people who keep it functioning.

Bholakpur ward just east of the Hussain Sagar Lake

Bholakpur ward just east of the Hussain Sagar Lake

Aided by the local media, the GHMC has also joined in the chorus of voices that are pressing to move these informal businesses, and by extension the people who work there, to the outskirts of the city.

The public image of Bholakpur, constructed and normalized by the elite class of the city is only one side of the story, and people in the Bholakpur informal waste economy have been hard pressed to counter this narrative. Ignored by the local media, and facing the brunt of public campaigns trying to remove them from the heart of the city, the informal sector in Bholakpur has begun to face increasingly violent attempts by the state to force them to relocate.

For example, after an incidental outbreak of ecolitis that killed 15 people in 2009, the state as a punitive measure cut electricity to the area, jeopardizing the livelihoods of thousands of workers earning meagre wages in plastic scrap separation.

It is necessary to build a more detailed and sensitive narrative of Bholakpur that can speak to the wider public in Hyderabad; something that can lead to more equitable outcomes from clashes between the state and the members of the neighborhood's informal waste economy.

For this to happen, it is important to develop a strategy that can render visible what mainstream media and elite discourse have obscured about Bholakpur: the voices of the people involved its waste economy. It is important to re-imagine Bholakpur through the eyes of all its residents, not only through the eyes of its influential classes. A New Media platform in the style of the Map Kibera project and MyBlocNYC is ideal for this task.

Working with community members we have built a detailed map of the area.

A detailed map of Bholakpur made by the community

A detailed map of Bholakpur made by the community

Chand, a resident of Bholakpur working with a paper map and explaining his work to  some children walking home after school

Chand, a resident of Bholakpur working with a paper map and explaining his work to local schoolchildren

This will be the canvas on which we hope to engage different people that live and work in Bholakpur to articulate themselves against narratives that marginalize them.

 

This new media platform is part of a larger research agenda within the Hyderabad Urban Lab that aims to understand political economy and historical geography of Bholakpur. This work is partly funded by the Antipode Scholar-Activist Grant.

The community outreach for the New Media portal is helped by partial funding from the Rising Voices project.

 

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