A large fraction of urban residents in Indian cities live in slums but little attempt has been made to go beyond a simple slum/non-slum dichotomy, nor to identify slums more quantitatively than through local or sometimes official recognition.
A slum is a squalid and overcrowded urban street or district inhabited by very poor people. While slums differ in size and other characteristics, most lack reliable sanitation services, supply of clean water, reliable electricity, law enforcement and other basic services. Slum form and grow in many different parts of the world for many different reasons. Some causes include rapid rural to urban migration, economic stagnation and depression, political, natural disasters and social conflicts.
Undoubtedly, the high density of population in cities has become a humongous problem resulting in many municipal corporations finding it impossible to provide the necessary facilities for a huge population. In Mumbai and Kolkata around 2,000 migrant families move every week while Delhi gets its share with over one and a half lakh intake every year. In cities like Kanpur, Jabalpur and Visakhapatnam over 40% of the population live in large slums or as migrants waiting to make their own ‘slummish’ settlements.
Dharavi slum located in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India is one of the largest in the world and gives home to roughly 7, 00,000 to about 1 million people. It is the second largest slum in the continent of Asia and the 3rd largest slum in the world. With an area of just over 2.1 sq kms Dharavi is also one of the most densely populated areas on Earth.
Founded in 1882 during the British colonial era Dharavi contributes anything from USD 500 million to USD 1 billion to Mumbai’s economy. It is a home to various artisans like the embroidery workers from Uttar Pradesh, Kumbars, a large Gujarati community of potters, etc. In these slums variety of well documented, indigenous recycling programs as well as a thriving textile and tanning industries can also be found.
Defining slums, a household is a slum dweller if they lack any or all of these: i) access to water ii) access to sanitation iii) adequate space iv) durability of structure and v) security of tenure. The index is used to identify households on a continuum of slum characteristics that can be helpful in identifying households in the worst living conditions.
Social exclusion and poor infrastructure forces the poor to adapt to conditions beyond his or her control. Many slums grow because of growing informal economy which creates demand for workers. Urban poverty also encourages the formation and demand for slums. The reason why mostly slums exist near the colonies of the elite is because the people living in these slums are mostly people who work for the affluent class; they are working in the homes, cleaning cars, etc. People from villages come to urban areas in search of jobs, once they get work; they obviously get settled in homes in the form of slums.
Slum areas are characterized by substandard housing structures. Shanty homes which are hurriedly built with materials like paper, plastic earthen floors, mud and wattle walls, woods held together by ropes, straws or torn metal pieces as roof are some materials for construction. Usually these materials used are unsuitable for housing. Because of the fact, that large number of people are residing in a very small area, it leads to overcrowding where 5 or more people many share a room unit; the room is used for cooking sleeping and living. Daily fights, quarrel is common near sources of drinking water, cleaning, sanitation and where one toilet may serve dozens of families. If we see condition in on average, 1 toilet for 1,450 people, which seems to be one of the craziest fact about it.
Houses in slums are extremely crowded and small, people living, sleeping and eating in the same room, trying to accommodate as many as they can. Nobody has any pillow, mattresses or blanket. Cleanliness is nowhere to be seen, broken pipes with dirty water pouring out on streets, kids playing barefoot on top of dumpsters, women doing laundry on the dusty sidewalk, People drinking contaminated water, Numerous numbers of wires running from one roof to other and a huge cluster near the electricity pole is a common sight to behold that captures the imagery of an underdeveloped nation.
Slums are usually the most stigmatized parts of a city or town. In the mind of the general public, the disrepute and stigma of the slum area washes onto the people who frequent or inhabit it. Most of us think of slum dwellers as residents who deviate from the morals, norms and standard of public decency held by the wider conventional community i.e. people involved in serious crimes, drug and alcohol abuse, juvenile delinquency, gang violence, etc. Sociologist and anthropologist, however paint a more nuanced picture of slum life. Research show that a broad range of individuals and households live in slum, from the “ routine- seekers” and “ decent” residents, who abide by the norms and values of the large society, to the “action- seekers” and “street” folk who are more likely to flout or reject those standards.
In 2009, President Pratibha Patil announced that her government aimed to create slum free India within five year. In order to do that, the government planned on investing large amounts of money into building affordable housing. Thus, rather than improving the area, the government aimed to create entirely new homes for the urban poor. This idea of building new homes for the poor is one of the major idea that contends with the idea of Slum Development. The main objective of slum upgrading is to remove the poor living standards of slum dwellers and largely focuses on removing slum dwellers altogether.
Apart from the unhygienic condition, lack of sanitation, lack of medical facilities and no access to drinking water and electricity, only few slums are recognized by the government. Conditions in unrecognized slums are even worse. No drainage system, in most of the slums and waste water flowing in between houses, leads to various diseases. Contaminated water, environment pollution, low standards of living and malnutrition in children lead to reduced life expectancy of slum inhabitants. Since, these slums lack medical facilities, the little medical facilities available in slums is provided by NGOs which sometimes are rendered inefficient in various situations like heart attacks and pregnancy cases that at times leads to premature births.
Also due to the increasing ‘rural to urban migration’, poor planning of cities, social conflicts- civil wars, people residing in such areas gets victimized easily by alcohol and substance-abuse which eventually leads to slum-bred violence, crime, diseases, epidemics and psychological illness, adding to the woes of its women especially in these areas,who do not feel safe at times due to high number of drunkards.
Many initiatives were taken by Government of India for slum upgradation like the one mentioned above of building affordable housing, but these initiatives did not produce the expected fruit as the slum removal made slum inhabitants homeless and shifting them to newly constructed buildings moved poor people further away from their work places. Also, it is a known fact that some politicians use slum inhabitants as their vote banks, gifting them with liquor, money and household stuff like gas stove, utensils and equipments etc. and making fake promises of improving the living conditions, thereby encouraging slums.
But there are some positive steps too made in this direction by the Government of India in the form of ‘National Urban Health Mission’ to improve health care facilities for the urban poor. Steps are been taken for slum upgradation.
The Union Cabinet gave its approval to launch a National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) as a new sub-mission under the overarching National Health Mission (NHM). Under the Scheme the following proposals have been approved :
- One Urban Primary Health Centre (U-PHC) for every fifty to sixty thousand population
- One Urban Community Health Centre (U-CHC) for five to six U-PHCs in big cities.
- One Auxiliary Nursing Midwives (ANM) for 10,000 population.
- One Accredited Social Health Activist ASHA (community link worker) for 200 to 500 households.
The estimated cost of NUHM for 5 years period is Rs 22,507 crore with the Central Government share of Rs 16,955 crore. Centre-state funding pattern will be 75:25 except for North Eastern states and other special category states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand for whom funding pattern will be 90:10.NUHM aims to improve the health status of the urban population in general, particularly the poor and other disadvantaged sections by facilitating equitable access to quality health care, through a revamped primary public health care system, targeted outreach services and involvement of the community and urban local bodies.Around 2 percent of the total profit of all corporate sector companies is earmarked for social development under CSR. This fund can also be mobilized for health sector through efforts of MOHFW and the State Govts. Department of Public Enterprise (DPE) for public sector and Ministry of Corporate Affairs for the private sectors can emerge as important players.
Access to improved housing through enabling conditions and slum upgrading, developed in an inclusive and integrated manner, will contribute to reducing social inequalities and strengthen drive towards sustainable urbanization in many developing economies. It will also have a range of additional impacts such as strengthening security of tenure conditions for many, improved public space, livelihood generation, belter basic services and urban safety.
CSR can truly help in the aforementioned by:-
- Education: – Education to children and women, which is inclusive of basic literary skills and other life skills.Vocational training can be added to rule out child labour.
- Organized urbanization: – Planning and Modification of urban areas to accommodate new comers.
- Legitimizing slums instead of driving them out of their homes.
Besides improving the slums, the cause of slum creations should be addressed. Distributive development will serve the purpose and thereby everyone can have a dignified and healthy life.
After the ministry of corporate affairs amended Schedule VII in August 2014, slum areas development was added to the list. In financial year 2017, a negligible Rs. 9.78 crore was spent on slum development, according to data reported by the top 100 National Stock Exchange listed firms by market capitalization. While few private companies invested in the activity, none of the leading public sector utilizes reported any spending under the head during the year. It was a repeat of the trend in FY 16 and FY 15. This is because
- While dealing with slums one needs to navigate many local, social and political elements. Unlike villages, slums do not have a defined self or local government and therefore no representative voice.
- As some slums are notified or granted legal status by local authorities, government, many still are not. And as per CSR prosperities, you cannot work without illegal body. Thus planning and execution of projects are extremely difficult.
- Many companies do not work and spend on social initiatives in slum but on specific projects focusing on education, health and so on.
- Companies avoid this segment because slum development is a sense of authority treatment of CSR i.e. if not treated with absolute sincerity and foresight, it can lead to catastrophic socio- political crises.
So, it is because of such uncertainty over the legal status, slum in India find few takers for its upliftment.Its high time that we take the bull by the horns.
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