Contemporary research focuses on how the urban poor residents use their bonding capital to cope or adapt to disasters. For example recovering after a flood or coping with an ongoing flood. There have however been relatively few studies on the ability of slum dwellers not just to cope with disasters but also to transform their physical, social, ecological and human capital to attain a new state of resilience. The case of Pedda Jalaripeta (PJ) slum as I have been sharing in the previous two posts is a story of transformation. The PJ slum dwellers collaborated with external agencies and transformed their community both physically and socially on two different occasions (twenty years apart).
The PJ slum is an optimal case study to understand the long-term transformative resilience of an urban slum. The purpose of this blog is to respond to the research question, what is the role of social capital throughout the resilience process? The social characteristics of the PJ slum have changed over the years; these changing social dynamics are explored in this blog through analyzing the bonding, bridging and linking capital in the PJ slum. Bonding relationships include ties between family members, close friends or neighbors, these are particularly close and ‘inward looking’ relationships. Bridging relationships are outward looking ‘horizontal relationships’ with similar entities. Linking relationships are vertical relationships with organizations that have influence over the circumstances of the community (Islam & Walkerden, 2014; Woolcock & Narayan, 2000).
Every community has an array of social institutions from churches to neighborhood organizations to schools. The health of these institutions is a major factor in determining the ongoing resilience of a community. In successful communities, these institutions widen their original mission and help to create a strong and supportive network of social stability. In this chapter the three influential institutions in the PJ slum (Grama Sabha and the Fishermen Youth Welfare Association) are used to describe the bonding, bridging and linking capital of the PJ slum. Robust institutions play a prominent role in not only connecting and holding the community together but also in connecting and collaborating with external agencies.
In this blog, I will write about one of the oldest organizations in the PJ slum, Grama Sabha. I will continue the conversation about social capital in the PJ slum in the next blog where I will write about its youngest organization the Fishermen Youth Welfare Association.
The Grama Sabha or the village assembly is the oldest institution in the PJ slum and plays a significant role in the daily affairs of the community. The Grama Sabha serves as an informal law and norm enforcer and maintains the Grama kattubatlu (discipline in the village) through dispute resolution and managing religious events, more broadly the Grama Sabha maintains the community structure, rituals and resource distribution.The PJ slum is a homogenous community where the ‘Jalari’ fishing families making up 88.5% of the population (GVMC, 2009); the shared caste and kinship groupings result in stronger bonding within the community.
The Grama Sabha, performs two important roles in the day-to-day life of the PJ slum residents, first it takes the lead in constructing temples for the community and organizes 10-12 religious festivals a year. Since the slum redevelopment in 1985, Grama Sabha elders built four temples at the entrance of the community through several fund-raisers within the community. One of the most successful fundraising campaigns is the fishing for the temple day; on a designated day the fishermen of the slum donate all their fishing catch to the Grama Sabha elders for the construction of the temple. In 2006, the fishermen donated Rs. 1,500,000 in three fishing days, for the construction of the Ramalayam temple (Figure 1). Slum dwellers that are not fishermen are asked to donate cash directly for the temple construction. After the construction of the temple, slum dwellers especially the fishermen continue to donate 1% of their income for the temple upkeep.
The Grama Sabha organizes religious ceremonies such as the Polaramma Jatara(Figure 2), Nookalamma Jatara, Tsunami day (Figure 3) and other such ceremonies throughout the year. These ceremonies are religious and involve animal sacrifice. For these ceremonies, decorative lights are placed all along the streets, crowd control methods are put in place at the temples where long lines of devotees are gathered to offer their prayers. Tsunami day (Figure 3) is another festival that originated on the day of Tsunami December 26, 2004. The disastrous Tsunami that wrecked havoc in Japan and parts of India, destroyed the PJ slum beach and the boats and nets of the PJ slum residents, but the community and most of the houses were not ruined. Since that day, every year the residents offer their prayers to the sea for sparing their village from destruction.
Figure 1: Ramalayam Temple
Figure 2: Polaramma Jatara
Figure 3: Tsunami Day
Source:The Hindu Daily Newspaper website first posted on December 27, 2012 http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/fisherfolk-offer-prayers-to-gangamma-talli/article4244012.ece
Grama Sabha’s Bridging Capital
Bridging capital refers to intra-community ties or networks. Grama Sabha is a common form of village governance in all fishing villages and are also common in fishing communities such as the PJ slum (Aldrich, 2011a), there are several such village assemblies in the fishing communities in and around the city of Visakhapatnam. Grama Sabhas’ from the different villages often get together to discuss issues which are relevant to all of them, issues such as availability of loans, the new rules about licensing, boat registration, problems with large mechanized boats fishing in the areas designated for the fishermen. In some cases, these intra Grama Sabha meetings are also conducted to mediate fights among the members of the different communities. Several of the Grama Sabha members also maintain close connection with other fishing villages, these informal ties and connections enhance the collective voice of the fishermen.
Grama Sabha’s Linking Capital
Before the 1983 the Grama Sabha in the PJ slum lacked connections to and awareness of the larger world. After a fire in the slum, the Grama Sabha was entrusted to collaborate and connect with the government agencies in charge of the redevelopment. The Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of that period was a Jalari from the PJ slum. He worked closely with the government agencies and the Grama Sabha to rebuild the community after the fire. The PJ slum Grama Sabha also functions as the slum’s neighborhood committee, which determined the lot allocation for slum residents during the 1983 and 1990’s slum redevelopment.
The recovery of the PJ slum was possible due to the inflow of capital from the government agencies and Grama Sabha’s fair & transparent distribution of those resources. Previous research shows that while bonding and bridging networks are adequate to get by, these networks are not strong enough to support a community after a disaster (Chatterjee, 2010; Islam & Walkerden, 2014; Keck & Etzold, 2013). Long term transformative resilience after a disaster is only plausible through linking networks which can connect the community with the national or international governments or other non-government organizations (Aldrich, 2011a; Islam & Walkerden, 2014).
However, after MLA’s term ended, the Grama Sabha no longer had a strong link or connection to the elected representatives. The Grama Sabha members continue to have close ties with their current MLA, but these connections are not strong enough to allow for large-scale transformations. The PJ slum’s Grama Sabha continues to be relevant and important for the bonding and bridging within the community, it has however, lost its linking capital.
 $ 24,105 at a conversion rate of $1= Rs. 62.22
 Even forty years after Mr. Olisetty Chinnaya’s term, no one else from the community was ever elected for that position.