MOST City Words Project Inde du Nord / Northern India, Working Paper N° 4, December 1999

Words and concepts in urban development and planning in India: an analysis in the context of regional variation and changing policy perspectives
Amitabh Kundu, Somnath Basu

Abstract: This paper proposes an analysis of the types of words used in the North Indian towns and cities of the Hindi belt, with emphasis on urban development and planning. Hindi words, but also Urdu words of Persian lineage and English terms are used in this area which has a long tradition of multiple cultures and a long history of urbanisation. Attention is paid to the various levels of languages: popular parlance or urban’s planners terminology for instance. Regional variations are also taken into account, through a few significant examples. The use of words borrowed from the general vocabulary, the strength of vernacular terms, the process of standardisation and, on the opposite, the impact of policy changes on terminologies are assessed, as well as the acronyms which symbolize today the importance of the state intervention in urban development. The second part of the paper offers a thematic and commentated glossary which, while not aiming at exhaustivity, offers a significant panorama of the diverse terminologies found in Northern India, be they in Hindi, in Urdu/Persian, in English, and even sometimes in a mix of two languages. These samples – 68 of then – are grouped in four categories: process of urbanisation, urban economy (mostly refering to types of employment visible in the urban landscape); physical aspects of urban development, and intervention of the state and administration in urban development.

Urban Terminology against a Cross-Cultural Background
Understanding the evolution of words and concepts (used in urban context, changes therein through cross-cultural interactions and exogenous interventions etc.) in a vast country like India is a complex and ambitious job. There are, of course, regional variations in urban processes because of the differences in socio-economic conditions. Even when the basic process and its causative factors are the same or similar, their manifestations vary significantly across states and districts due to regional specificities. Also, there are perceptual cultural differences. Above all, articulation of all these through different languages and dialects adds further diversity. All these factors make the task of analysing citywords extremely challenging. The trends and patterns of urbanisation, the nature of economic activities, land management practices, etc. vary across regions due to differences in physical, social, political and legal situations and these have an impact on urban terminology, as noted above. A few examples would be in order to illustrate the point. In cities, for example, where land acquisition by the state is common, as in case of Delhi, muhabza or compensation paid to the land owner for acquisition of his land, is the popular term. Further, as a result of restrictions on land transfers due

remain restricted to a small region.to legal provisions there. damages to property or refunded at the end of the tenancy. but a bus-adda in a town or a city is a bus terminus. Urdu or English) and have not acquired a specific meaning through their use in Indian urban context have not been included in our list of urban vocabulary. the amount is a few month’s rent and is adjusted against the monthly rentals. several words designed by researchers. land title is passed on from one person to another through informal channels. A few such words have. known as pugree. however. For instance. since the task would largely be subjective. although used both in the rural and the urban context have a specific meaning in the latter. Words. an important term in urban planning literature. academicians or used in official and legal documents remain confined to small groups or specific purposes. would be erroneous and risky. . thus. words acquire their meaning only through a process of use over time. A large number of other terms. These. acquire general acceptability over time through the process of their use by academicians. property tax etc. However. then. In Calcutta. terms that only have the popular/dictionary meaning (in Hindi. In Delhi. Payment of pugree makes the tenant a virtual owner of the premise which he can rent out by receiving a pugree. In the city of Bombay. policy makers etc. for example. therefore. would imply any habitation in Hindi speaking areas. As. the amount varying with the demand and supply situation. do not have any separate/specific connotation in urban context. while in Bengal it refers to a slum. Also. however it is difficult to identify and distinguish the terms in the core from those not in it. however. It would. implies a gathering in several regional languages. varying as to their degree of acceptability. It is common to note different words being used to describe the same or similar phenomena in different regions. introduced in official literature by planners and policy makers. commonly described as benami transactions. The modality of the payment. for example. be difficult to prepare a list of all the core terms and standardise their definitions for their day-to-day usages removing all ambiguities. therefore. become a part of the common parlance and many of them also end up in official documents. It is called "deposit" or "advance". absent or not in common usage in situations where the "Delhi Model" of land management have not been adopted. language or a dialect. administrators. Similarly. These words sometimes transcend language boundaries and their usage cuts across regions as a result of multilingual and cross cultural interaction. City Words as a Sub-set of General Vocabulary Urban vocabulary is a sub-set of general vocabulary and a large number of words used in normal communication are found in the former. where protection of the rights of the tenants and slum dwellers is a major concern of the state. Similarly. however. The same is the case for terms like octroi. varies across cities/regions. the amount. and which words are to be excluded from it. is generally as big as the value of the house and is not refundable. however. such payments are often described as selami. The process can work in the reverse order as well. been included in the appended list as an illustration of an argument or to bring out regional variations in usage. one word may have different connotations in different places or contexts. do not become a part of the core of urban vocabulary. Such words are. bustee. Any official judgement as to which words are in common parlance and their connotations. it is a practice in most of the large cities in the country to take a certain amount as advance when renting out a house/flat. Certain words from the local language or dialect. Such words have. although part of official urban jargon. Importantly. However. for example. All these words. words like yojana or niyojan imply a plan or planning or vikas means development. not been analysed here. These. may slowly gain acceptability across regions and over a period of time become a part of the mainstream vocabulary. In the Hindi speaking areas a slum will be called a gandi basti or a dirty locality. however. Adda. several words may be used in the same language. In practice. certain terms. the vernacular words like thikadar (viz. Similarly. a person who has been given rights through a contract) is part of the urban terminology. Evolution of Urban Terminology It is important to understand and analyse the complex process of interaction among peoples of different regions and cultures – the process of acceptance/rejection of terms or phrases and the emergence of new words. in West Bengal. describing the same or overlapping phenomena.

often. laying down the foundation of urban governance in the country. Hindi/Urdu words have much greater acceptability amongst ordinary people. where English is less prevalent. The words commonly used in discussion of urban processes reflect a concern about concentrations of urban growth within a few cities and regions. Since at the time of colonisation of India. It is worth mentioning that these words have acquired special meaning in the process of their use that now have general acceptability across a large number of regions and languages. the British planners and policy makers used vernacular terms to capture the local specificity of the situation. recent policy interventions and related governmental efforts/schemes. is an indication of this concern. particularly in non-metropolitan urban centres.Vernacular Terms in Citywords in India Hindi was declared as the national language in the country after Independence in 1947 although English remains the medium of much of the intra-governmental communication even today. These . Nonetheless. official reports and standard academic literature. some of these words are in use along with their corresponding English words. Consequently. The words having only the dictionary meaning are less important. attempts should be made to find consensus on the crucial terms. Standardisation of Terms for Comparative Research and Urban Policy The ambiguity in identifying or defining terms and specifying their coverage can be a problem when these are used for generating data for spatio-temporal comparisons or for taking administrative and legal decisions. administrative or legal documents have clearcut definitions. And the interpretation of certain terms proposed by a central agency may vary from state to state. its manifestation in different regions. This helps provide an unambiguous terminology for communication among policy makers. efforts are made to define the relevant terms rigorously so that there is no ambiguity in the official information system or administrative decisions/orders. Such practices have continued despite attempts to control these by "notifying" lands in the periphery of growing cities as "development areas". Hindi and Urdu words in the illustrative list given below. "standard urban area" etc. These also indicate a process of limited urban-industrial dispersal around the large cities. An attempt has been made here to include all these English. for several of these that describe specific local phenomena. it would. appropriate English equivalents do not exist. legal or research purposes. The poor have found it relatively easy to occupy and squat in these areas and effectively expand the urban limits. therefore. Hindi and Urdu words are abundant in the official documents. if used for administrative. be worthwhile starting by considering the English terms that have frequently been used in official communications to describe a typical Indian situation. for example. Reflection of Urban Process and Policy Changes on the Terminology Scrutiny of urban terminology. in the official publications. Many of the terms have been taken from policy documents. Urban planning being state-related means there are variations in the official terminology as well. currently being used in planning. In any case. its basic problems. although they are not necessarily without ambiguity. the indigenous system of urban taxation and administration were fairly well developed. As a result. Even a central data gathering agency like the Population Census may change the definition or effective coverage of certain terms or concepts over time. between states. some of the legal and administrative provisions adopted during the British period were based on those of their predecessors. In building up the urban vocabulary. as given below. researchers and administrators associated with urban governance. "out growth". helps in identifying the characteristics of the process of urbanisation. means a private school mostly for the children of urban elites in India. It is relatively easy to prepare a compendium of such official terms as the definitions of most of these are available. This is not to suggest that all the terms. as they do encounter less resistance from the authorities than in the inner city. institution or policy instrument and have thereby acquired a special connotation. Currently. The emergence of terms like "urban agglomeration". Sometimes. However. which is a definition not applicable to all western countries. "Public School". or that the data generated by using these terms are strictly comparable over time and across official agencies. Urban expansion has generally led to legal or illegal conversion of rural land for urban use even within the lal dora limits that define the permissible boundary for residential construction.

one room set in the terrace) popular. particularly the poor. muffassil towns. awas. to speculators whose activities (occupation. niyojan. The shift from mass housing progammes to incremental housing has made a term like barsati (viz. etc. farm houses etc. slum upgrading etc. instead of creating new words in the area of urban finance. due to their phenomenal demographic growth. mandi shulka. However. with the changes in the system of governance and regulations. indicate that avoidance of legal systems in day to day dealings has become quite a common part of urban life. reflects the unsatisfactory housing conditions of the people. chawl etc. It is.. Terms like marginal or casual workers. etc.2 % in 1977-78 to 16. It may be noted that the percentage of casual male workers has gone up in the urban workforce from 13. so have not been appreciated by the masses and therefore not captured in their vocabulary. on urban vocabulary. also. The usage of the terms like katcha. It has been envisaged under the policy of economic reforms that their problems can be solved largely by enhancing their internal resources. administrators and ordinary men and women. Interestingly. generally with a low wage/earning potential have emerged in urban areas. kasbas. were employed in the formulation and implementation of schemes and projects through which the government sought to intervene. have regained currency in recent years. confronted with a plethora of regulative and administrative controls. This is because the government has been careful not to convey to administrators and people at large that such drastic changes were being introduced or about to be introduced. bustee.2 % in 1993-94. The growing importance of these terminologies in urban literature reflects the importance of urban sprawl and expansion around large cities. have only popularised the use of certain existing words. poor living and working conditions and the deteriorating quality of life. development. depending on their economic and administrative attibutes. khomchawala. pugree. have increased in importance in recent years. with liberalisation and the curbing of the jurisdictions of the public agencies. It tried to improve the living conditions of the slum dwellers by delivering to them the minimum basic services. Acronyms like EWS (Economic Weaker Sections). also. Even those that were relatively successful did not bring about perception of real change. The popularity of words like thelawala. reflecting the growing importance of such jobs undertaken by males within the informal tertiary sector. with the process of structural adjustment. particularly in less developed regions. All these terms indicate the growing importance of planning and state intervention in urban development in recent years. many of the tools of reform have not impacted on the existing system. These towns. in contemporary literature indicates a process of casualisation and informalisation of the urban economy. resulting in emergence of luxurious dwelling units. argue that the economic reforms in India. To an extent the spectrum in the vocabulary reflects this inequality in urban structure. It is in this context that terms such as kar. samiti etc. resulting in growth of slums. the nature and agencies involved in such transactions change and so do the meanings of some of the terms. One could. described as ganjs. launched in a somewhat ad-hoc manner during the eighties in the urban sector. The government’s scepticism as to the efficiency of market forces solving the problem of housing and the quality of life for the poor led to the launching of programmes for low cost housing. NRY etc. LIG (Low Income Group). This informalisation has grown within urban economy. There has been. such transanctions and resulting terminologies will disappear. The language of politicians and planners designing urban policy and bureacrats administering it have shown no major transformation or departure from the past. manditowns. often described as bhawans. It is difficult to measure the impact of "structural reform" launched in the country formally in 1991 but informally in the early eighties (particularly in the urban sector). sankia etc. construction and sale) result in urban expansion and dispersal. it should be said. except for the few examples quoted above. A major problem in urban centres is the population pressure on a limited basic services. EIUS. The policy of globalisation and reform and their effect on urban vocabulary are apparent when it comes to urban economy. UBSP. Also. chungi. various types of casual jobs. a . at the same time. therefore. in the sixties. unlikely that. MIG (Middle Income Group). The reaction of the man in the street to changing situations or new policy perspectives has not been strong or long enough to be refected in his language. HIG (High Income Group) were designed to classify the beneficiary households and give them differential subsidies. have resorted to various semi-legal and illegal working methods. pheriwala. The popularity of terms like benami transaction. sadans. There has been much discussion lately regarding the lack of infrastructural facilities and basic amenities in small and medium-sized towns. that were already in the literature. is understandable. investment in housing by the elite. badli etc. Terms like yojana. hafta. Also. The names of the schemes in their abbreviated forms like IDSMT. because people.areas are of interest. jhuggi/jhonpri. moreover. have also become a part of urban vocabulary due to their use by planners.

decade is a very small period in the life of a society to expect significant restructuring in the vocabulary of the common man. .

(E) = English. having a high degree of interdependence with the town. . within the government..000 people with continuous growth around it. A town where trading of agricultural products is the most important activity is called a Mandi town. (b) urban economy. Octroi (E): Chungi. 3. Dhaba (H): A small open eating place on the road side. settlements having (a) a population of five thousand or more. have been placed in four categories. Casual Workers (E): Employed generally by small entrepreneurs on daily or weekly basis on a low wage rate. (c) physical aspects of urban development and (d) urban planning. Lal Dora (H): Literally red thread. Anudan (H): A grant (interest free loan) transfered from a higher to a lower office. offering inexpensive Punjabi dishes. Presently implies the boundary of the territory of village within which norms and controls of a municipality or urban development authority are not applicable. 7. 4. Mandi (H): A market centre found in an urban area for trading agricultural products. (b) a minimum density of 1000 people per square kilometre and (c) at least seventy five percent of work force outside agriculture. Bhatti (H): Establishments that brew and sell country liquor. mostly illegal. A . Standard Urban Area (E): An area with a town of at least 50. Outgrowth (E): Conglomeration of houses outside the formal limits of a town (not constituting a settlement/village on their own). Badli (A): Casual workers but employed mostly by the same employer and hence recruited in a more 3. 2.Urban Economy 1. Notified Area Committee. Statutory town (E): A settlement having an urban local body viz. 7.. 10. 11. used in the past for demarcating the jurisdiction of a village. the Hindi word for octroi has been retained in official documents in many of the northern states. Mufassil Town (A/E): A rural township wherein the rural folks go for certain types of services. In the urban planning definition.. made on a weekly basis to officials in authority by petty industrialists. City (E): Large towns in common parlance. Cantonment. 14. towns with a population of one hundred thousand or more. B . traders or slum dwellers. Kasba (P): A subdivision town. viz. encompassing a number of smaller towns and rural settlements based round the core town. Hafta (P): Payment. Corporation. subdividing the city into a number of smaller units. Town Area Committee. personalised way. Thus mahanagar or badi sahar would imply a metropolitan or large city and chota sahar would imply a small town. 9. (H) = Hindi. (a) process of urbanisation. Urban Agglomeration (E): A city with continuous spread around it encompassing a few other towns and outgrowths. (P) = Persian. 4. Municipality. are known as towns and treated as urban centres by the Population Census of India. 5. Charge (E): An area with definite boundaries. 6. identified for administrative purposes. Ganj (H): A market centre which has not grown into a fully-fledged town.Process of Urbanisation 1. Shahar (P): Nagar is a Hindi word and sahar a Persian word for city. Town Panchayat. 5. generally having storing and warehousing facilities.A Thematic Glossary Terms selected for the urban glossary here. with the possibility of being urbanised within the next couple of decades. Nagar (H). 13. based on the core town. Chungi (H). for developmental purpose. Shahar (P): see Nagar 12. 6. Census Towns/Urban Centres (E): Besides the Statutory Towns. 8. Chowkidar (H): Security person responsible for the safety of a building or a locality. 8. next in hierarchy to a district headquarter. The letter in brackets following the words listed here below indicates the language it belongs to or it originates from: (A) = Arabic. 2.

Barsati (H): A one-room or two-room habitation on the terrace of a building usually for renting purpose. 18.. Rojgar (P): Employment. though not exclusive to the urban sector. 10. C . Chawl (H): A set of small multi-storied residential units. Due to lack of upkeep. with small tenements let out on a rental basis.Physical Aspects of Urban Development (including amenities) 1. 5. Sometimes in commercial areas cheap lunch is also sold from khokhas. having grown in an unplanned manner and facing problems of infrastructural deficiency. 20. 17. 22. 7. The latter receives pugree from the next tenant for vacating the premise. 2. They carry their products on shoulders not necessarily in a cart. 6. Thus kabari ranges from old newspapers to used furniture and electronic items. but in Northern India the latter is generally described as gandi basti. attracting their customers through loud calls. Zamadar (H): A sanitation worker cleaning toilets. Ahata (A). a cart with a squarish platform). walk ups". built with mud and bricks with thatched roofs and used materials etc. 4. Jhonpri (H). persons who have worked but not for the major part of the year or the working season. Katcha (H): Literally means uncooked. streets and the neighbourhood. Tekha (H): Contracts. constructed mostly in the nine-teenth century. Tekhedar is a person who organises the building materials or labourers at the construction site. in West Bengal). Bus Adda: (E/H) A major bus terminus in the city.g. Jhuggi (H): Informal structures built with bamboo. Teh Bazari (P): Tax collected on a daily basis by local authority from small traders for selling their items in a weekly market or any other public place. Bustee (in E): Congested settlement with a high population density. Thelawalla (H). In large cities like Bombay.9. The term serves as an adjective also for employment without job security. Rehriwalla (H): see Thelawalla 16. giving him the occupancy right. These are sometimes described as "inner city. degradation of the area and high density most of the chawls are now part of slums. Tekha can also imply an establishment selling country liquor. generally in the context of middlemen or labourers in the construction sector. often used as adjectives for houses of non-permanent nature. the sum equals the market value of the property which is never returned to the tenant. Shulka generally refers to a cess or fee payable to a public agency for using its premises or services. Khomchawala (H): Hawkers selling generally food products on a khomcha. Thus traders in a mandi pays a mandi fee or cess to the mandi (samiti) authority. Bara (H): An enclosure in a built up area. Kar (H): A common word in municipal finance. old building materials or raw bricks for residential purposes by the poor. Shulka (H). a person engaged in economically productive activities for most of the year or the working season. 12. run-down. to be returned to the latter at the time of vacating the premise. to accommodate industrial workers particularly in Bombay. Punjabi): A temporary small counter for sale of various items. Pheriwala (H): Hawkers selling small items or providing household services going around the localities. 15. it means the sum of money deposited with the property owner by the tenant to gain right of occupation. Marginal Workers (E) (see Worker): In administrative and statistical urban terminology. 13. for buses either working within the town/city or between cities across districts. they may repair household goods or offer personal services. 19. beedis and betel leaves. 10. 9. They generally stay at one place for a few hours or for the whole day and do not generally go from door to door. Worker (E): In administrative and statistical urban terminology. In housing transactions. 14. Rehriwalla (H): Mobile vendors generally selling their wares from a thela or rehri (viz. often implies employment generated through governmental programmes and schemes. existing mostly in the cities of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Mall (E): A major street used by the gentry for shopping and recreational activities. thatch. mostly for the people in the low income strata. . 21. kar principally refers to a tax realised by the government. but most commonly cigarettes. Thus aaye kar would mean income tax and jal kar (commonly seen in municipal finance balance sheets) would refer to water tax. Kabariwala (H): A person who trades in waste or used materials. Basti (H). rags and junk for re-cycled use or second hand sale. Bara (H): see Ahata 3. Some-times the word is used for a slum (e. Pugree (H): Literally means a piece of cloth tied over the head for protection or as a mark of honour. 8. Khokha (H. Kar (H): see Shulka 11.

trusts etc. In planning terms. Benami transaction (H/E): A method by which a person becomes the virtual owner of a house through the power of attorney (see below) although legally the property is not reported as bought or sold. Nakabandi means prohibiting all movements into or out of the town. Nala (H). these often refer to residential units built for the poor. the houses meant for the lower income groups are occupied by a mix households from different income brackets. Naka (P): Points on the boundary of the town. consequently. Pucca (H): Opposite of katcha. UBSP. A third category viz. Annual Rateable Value (ARV) (E): A measure of the ARV is carried out by a municipality to determine the value of property in a town or a city.Intervention by State in Urban Development and Planning 1. semi-pucca. EIUS (Environmental Improvement of Urban Slums) (E) IDSMT (Integrated Development of Small and Medium Towns) (E) NRY (Nehru Rojgar Yojana) (P/H) PMRY (Prime Minister’s Rojgar Yojana) (E/P/H) UBSP (Urban Basic Services for the Poor) (E) IDSMT. has been used for denoting the houses having some characteristics of both katcha as well as pucca houses. Khasra (P): Refers to a plot of land which is numbered in the Master Plan of a city. At present. Nagar Parishad (H): Nagar Nigam refers to a Municipal Corporation and Nagar Palika or Nagar Parishad (nomenclature varies from state to state) refers to a Municipal Council. 5. EIUS. 7. A nali carries all domestic and industrial refuse and sullage water from the town to a nearby river. Due to various laxities in administration. Nagar Nigam (H). often causing major environmental hazards. NRY. 12. 8. 13. Rickshaw (H. located on the main roads. Public School (E): Generally an English medium school managed by private organisations. 16. . Any developmental plan sketched on the basis of the Master Plan refers to a khasra number. 4. 14. thereby admitting the children mostly from the elite class. 6. Based on this value property tax in an urban area is fixed. Nali (H): An open drain which commonly supports the sanitation system of a small or medium town. used for monitoring and controlling the entry and exit of goods and people. Resettlement Colony (E): A colony created by removing a group of households from the congested city core or an encroachment in public places and locating them generally in the periphery of the city. A corporation is higher than a council in the hierarchy of municipal administration. many richer sections of the population registered themselves under lower income categories. Awas (H): Residential units.11. the taxes due to the government at the time of such transactions are not paid. 2. Over the years the upper and lower limits of these categories have been revised upwards. Ashray (H). wherein the tuition costs and other payments are very high. EWS: Economically Weaker Section (E) LIG: Low Income Group (E) MIG: Middle Income Group (E) HIG: High Income Group (E) Income categories created by the public housing agencies for the purposes of providing subsidised land and capital inputs in a differentiated manner. E from Japanese): A type of transport (which may resemble a cart) drawn either by a cycle attached to it or by a man (as in Calcutta). Nagar Palika (H). 3. Parivahan (H): Generally refers to public transport (system). There are no strict norms for giving a municipality the status of a corporation or council – the decision is mostly political. If the khasras in a Master Plan are not properly numbered developmental plans gets hindered. D . PMRY are schemes in the central sector for urban areas in the Eighth Plan. 15.

10. payment of instalments etc. Patta (H): Title to land. Master Plan norms etc. Development Authority (E): Every big city (mostly of more than a million inhabitants – but again there are no strict norms) has a Development Authority which supervises various aspects of Urban Management including land. housing. as stipulated in the Master Plan. 15. 13. and transfer of a property is given by the owner to another person. a large number of properties. particularly in north Indian cities.9. Samiti (H): A community-based organisation. The Law Ministry has doubts about the validity of such transfer deals . This is also a guarantee against future eviction. Power of Attorney (E): Supposedly a legal provision through which the right of occupancy. Under the slum upgrading and resettlement schemes. 14. are changing hands. 11. . nevertheless. Notified Area (E): Any land area earmarked with the help of legal provisions for the purpose of future development. Nazul Land (P/E): Land vested with the public authority for developmental purpose as per the stipulations of the authority. services etc. Rain Basera (H): A scheme of night-shelter by the government to provide sleeping arrangement to houseless people at night. Vikas Pradhikaran (H). as per the provisions of the Rent Control Act with the objective of protecting the tenant from exorbitant rent and eviction.. and develop perspective plans for the future. 12. Standard Rent (E): Worked out on the basis of the value of land and cost of construction when built. management. management of basic amenities. generally recognised by the public agencies as a partner in the implementation of certain schemes. using this provision. responsible for resource mobilisation. They also oversee legal aspects pertaining to building byelaws. land title is being given to the residents in the hope that they would make further investment to improve their own housing conditions and living standards.

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