Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Life, Death and Hope in an Indian Slum

Life, Death and Hope in an Indian Slum

Today every human being requires basic amenities to survive in this tough world. Food, shelter and clothing are the first preferences for them. With increase in development of rural areas into urban areas there is also a rapid increase in population of people resulting in slums.

Life, Death and Hope in an Indian Slum
Slums are basically the homes of the poor people which provide minimum shelter. Earlier slums used to be on the outskirts of towns but now they are in towns making the places quite congested with high density of population. Today people living in slum areas hardly enjoy even the basic amenities. Some people have single room but mostly people live in huts made up of mud, the roof and ceilings are made from metal, scraps of wood, gunny sacks, or some sort of waste material. At times 10-12 people live, eat and sleep in the same house. The lanes are narrow and people use common latrines and water taps. The provision of water, sanitation, garbage collection and health care is inadequate which creates the conditions where infectious and parasitic diseases thrive and spread. The sewage water stagnates in open surface drains, which emit bad smell. The children are often found playing in places where the drains are used as open latrines. Living conditions in many urban slums are worse than those in the poorest rural areas of the country resulting in exceptionally unhealthy environment and due to which serious environmental diseases are transmitted through insects, soil, air, food, water, soil. Most of the slum population suffers from one or more diseases associated with inadequate provision of water and sanitation. Their Living conditions are extremely difficult and slum dwellers are always scared of having their homes bulldozed in municipal 'slum clearance' efforts.

The reasons of growth of slums are due to poor utilization of the reproductive child health services provided by the government, marriage at young age, lack of awareness regarding birth spacing; very low use of contraceptives, illiteracy. Another reason is migration from rural areas to more developed areas by people looking to earn more through higher-paying manual labor compared to the low returns life of agriculture.

It is noteworthy that in absolute terms only 44.6 million slum dwellers are literate. Expected in slum areas, males are ahead of females in terms of literacy with 24.92 million male and million female literates being recorded among the slum dwellers in the Census 2011. Maharashtra has the highest number of total literates (8.8 million) among slum population. The literacy rates are 84.11 per cent for all slum dwellers, 88.76 per cent for males and 79.11 percent for females. Education is provided free to slum children but still the dropout rates are high and most of students do not continue studying after their 8th standard. Children those become literate lack in suitable educational levels for further studies. When one considers the status and living standards of slums of India, sometimes it becomes difficult to consider them as human settlements. Slums are looked upon as lower form of life.

Amongst the states, Maharashtra accounts for 11.85 million population, which is 18.1 percent of the total slum population of the country. This is followed by Andhra Pradesh (10.2 million), West Bengal (6.4 million), Uttar Pradesh (6.2 million) and Tamil Nadu (5.8 million). In fact, these 5 states account for about two-thirds (61.9 per cent) of the total slum population of the country. Other ten States/Union Territories are Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar which have reported each more than 1 million slum dwellers in its cities/towns in 2011. A common characteristic feature of slums across the world is the low socioeconomic status of its residents, most of whom employ them in the informal economy. This can include domestic work, street vending, human trafficking and drug dealing. Some of them recycle trash of different kinds from household garbage and electronics for a living. They either sell the odd usable goods or strip broken goods for parts or raw materials.


Many governments have attempted to solve the problems of slums by clearing away old houses and replacing it with modern housing with much better sanitation. In some countries, the situation has been addressed by rescuing rural property rights to support traditional sustainable agriculture. There is a growing movement to demand a global ban of slum clearance programs and other forms of mass evictions.

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