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Speaking at Day 2 

Cities and Health - Combating health disparities in high density and informal communities

KT Suresh
National Lead Policy & Campaigns (Urban & Labour), Action Aid India

KT Suresh or “KT” as he is known, has for the last 30 years has worked with a variety of organizations, enabling them to develop leadership and/or to, initiate, sustain and institutionalize change. Some of the interventions KT has been part of are: Action Aid - currently leads the national work on urban and labour – previously Executive Director - YUVA, Mumbai, National Director Amnesty International India and Coordinator EQUATIONS. His current work includes securing rights and sustainable livelihood through collective action and education for people dependent on the informal economy in India. He is the Course Director of Urban Action School - Established in 2015, the UAS is a part of the Citizens’ Rights Collective of ActionAid, India. A platform for synthesizing cutting-edge knowledge with grassroots practice. Urban Action School (UAS) is a school for mid to senior-level urban practitioners specialising in issues related to Urbanisation and Cities, related to India and the Global South. As the urban policy hub of ActionAid, CiRiC’s focus on urban issues is informed by frameworks of citizenship rights, gender parity. He is associated with the Institute for Public Enterprises, Hyderabad; Society for Organisational Learning, Boston, USA; among other institutions.

The experience of those who are the city makers, the ones who actually build the cities, the ones whose labour contributes to the making of the economic model, their experience of the city is one of  abandonment.

Insight from "COVID-19 Challenges and Responses in Informal Settlements"

Action Aid has been working tirelessly during the national lockdown in India via relief operations in 25 state provinces, reaching out to 3 million people on a day-to-day basis, and completed a national survey of over 11,500 people in transit. The 100 million internal migrants were hit worst by the lockdown. They suffered starvation, road accidents, fatigue as they travelled back to their villages, which are at least 500 km of walk. This fleeing illustrated the stark difference in social class within the country. Heavily policed bus terminals and state boundaries, and occasional violence showed the gravity and cruelty of the migrants, creating the ‘one of the most harrowing experiences since the time the country went through partition’. 

These labour drains that are taking place in large cities are causing huge changes in nature in informality and living spaces, which require a new order in the city. Migrants were abandoned at the first sight of trouble. One survey also revealed that on average, 10 people shared a room in the city, making it impossible to execute social distancing. The COVID-19 crisis is unmasking the problem at a gigantic level, this demands of us an imagination of how we look at informal settlements at a scale that we have never dealt with before.

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