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Slum Dwellers in India- Fulfilling Daily Need is a Challenge

Slum dwellers in India regularly deals with problems such as lack of clean water, constant migration at slums, no sewage or waste disposal facilities, pollution, and unsanitary living conditions. High levels of pollution, lack of basic needs, and room-crowding are some of the basic characteristics of slum housing.

India is a third largest country that suffers from poverty, malnutrition, diseases, unhealthy conditions, and more in Indian slums, which is alone responsible for more deaths of children than any other country in the world. Because of the dramatic rise of slums after independence, India’s population has tripled. Most of the population is currently are slum dwellers in India.

During the last two decades; migration from villages and small towns to metropolitan areas has increased tremendously in India. It leads to the degradation of urban environmental quality and sustainable development, especially in metropolitan cities. Every year, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children die worldwide, and India alone is responsible for 25% of the deaths.

Who are Slum Dwellers?

Slums manifest deprivation that transcends income poverty. Slum dwellers in India are characterised by acute over-crowding, insanitary, unhealthy and dehumanising living conditions. They are subject to insecure land tenure, lack of access to basic minimum civic services such as safe drinking water, sanitation, storm drainage, solid waste management, internal and approach roads, street lighting, education and health care, and poor quality of shelter.

The word “slum” is used to describe informal settlements within cities with inadequate housing and miserable living conditions. They are often overcrowded, with many people crammed into very small living spaces. Slums are not a new phenomenon as they have been a part of almost all cities, particularly during a time of urbanisation and industrialisation. Slums are generally the only type of settlement affordable and accessible to the poor in cities, where competition for land and profits is intense. The main reason for slum proliferation is rapid and non-inclusive patterns of urbanisation catalysed by increasing rural migration to urban areas.

Many of these habitations are located in environmentally fragile and dangerous zones prone to landslides, floods and other disasters that make the poor residents highly vulnerable. A significant proportion of the slum dwellers also face social burdens and health problems worse than their non-slum and rural counterparts. Civic bodies do not provide the required municipal services in slums on the plea that these are located on ‘illegal’ space. Moreover, the problem’s scale is so colossal that it is beyond the means of Municipalities that lack a buoyant fiscal base.

Problems Faced by the Slum Dwellers in India

The problems faced by the people living as the slum dwellers in India have become significant concerns for the government. Slums are considered the major issue within many urban areas; particularly transportation, population, health, and safety. Considering today’s poor urban environmental quality in India, most families affected by urban development projects are located in slum areas under consideration for resettlement or rehabilitation. There is a need to examine slum areas and their living conditions and determine the most critical and problematic zone of the slums. The Government of India has not been able to solve the problems that are strangling the entire population of Indian slums.

Problems Faced by the Slum Dwellers in India

Some of the problems faced by the slums dwellers have been discussed below:

Lack of Basic Necessities

Lack of basic necessities is one of the most frequently mentioned characteristics of slum definitions worldwide. Lack of access to improved sanitation facilities and improved water sources is the most important feature, sometimes supplemented by the absence of waste collection systems, electricity supply, surfaced roads and footpaths, street lighting and rainwater drainage.

Overcrowding and High Density

Overcrowding has been associated with a low space per person living in an area, high occupancy rates, cohabitation by different families and a high number of single-room units. Mostly slum-dwelling units are overcrowded, with five to six and more persons sharing a one-room unit used for cooking, sleeping and living.

Substandard Housing or Illegal and Inadequate Building Structures

Many cities have building standards that set minimum requirements for residential buildings. Slum areas have been associated with a high number of substandard housing structures, often built with non-permanent materials unsuitable for housing given local conditions of climate and location. Factors contributing to the structure being considered substandard are, for example, earthen floors, mud-and-wattle walls or straw roofs. Various space and dwelling placement bylaws may also be extensively violated.

Unhealthy Living Conditions and Hazardous Locations

Unhealthy living conditions result from a lack of basic services, with visible, open sewers, lack of pathways, uncontrolled dumping of waste, polluted environments, etc. their houses can be built on hazardous locations or land unsuitable for settlement, such as floodplains, in proximity to industrial plants with toxic emissions or waste disposal sites, and on the areas subject to a landslip. The settlement layout may be hazardous because of a lack of access ways and high densities of dilapidated structures.

Insecure Tenure, Irregular or Informal Settlements

A number of slums have considered lack of security of tenure as a central characteristic of slums and regard lack of formal document entitling the occupant to occupy the land or structure as prima facie evidence of illegality and slum occupation. Informal or unplanned settlements are often regarded as synonymous with slums. Mostly emphasise both informality of occupation and the non-compliance of settlements with land-use plans. The factors contributing to non-compliance are settlements built on land reserved for non-residential purposes or invasions of non-urban land.

Poverty and Social Exclusion

Income or capability poverty is considered, with some exceptions, as a central characteristic of slum areas. It is not seen as an inherent characteristic of slums, but as a cause (and, to a large extent, a consequence) of slum conditions. Slum conditions are physical and statutory manifestations that create barriers to human and social development. Furthermore, slums are social exclusion areas that are often perceived to have high levels of crime and other social dislocation measures. In some definitions, such areas are associated with certain vulnerable groups of the population, such as recent immigrants, internally displaced persons or ethnic minorities.

Minimum Settlement Size

Many slums also require some minimum settlement size for an area to be considered a slum, so that the slum constitutes a distinct precinct and is not a single dwelling. Examples are the municipal slum definition of Delhi that requires a minimum of 700 square meters to be occupied by huts, or the Indian census definition, which requires at least 300 population or 60 households living in a settlement cluster.

Recommendations for Improving Conditions of Slum Dwellers in India

  • Developing Countries like India need to recognise that the slum dwellers and not just beneficiaries of development. Developing cities requires local solutions. Local authorities need to be empowered with financial and human resources to deliver services and infrastructure to the slum dwellers in India. Cities must draw up local long-term strategies for improving the lives of slum dwellers in India.
  • State governments have to develop strategies to prevent the formation of new slums. These should include access to affordable land, reasonably priced materials, employment opportunities, and basic infrastructure and social services.
  • Public investments must focus on providing access to basic services and infrastructure. The cities need to invest in housing, water, sanitation, energy, and urban services, such as garbage disposal. These services and infrastructure must reach the poor living in informal settlements.
  • The transportation needs and safety concerns of a city’s poorest residents should be a high priority in planning urban transportation systems, which can expand the choices people have regarding where to live and work.
  • Building codes and regulations should be realistic and enforceable and reflect the local community’s lifestyle and needs. For example, this means that they may have to be flexible enough to allow housing that is built incrementally, out of low-cost materials and on small plots of land.

In what ways Hindrise is helping?

In developing society, access to basic amenities is one of the important yardsticks to measure socio-economic development. Improved basic amenities lead to improved health, reduced child mortality/morbidity, improved water quality, environment, and country’s economic growth. Therefore we at Hindrise took care of slums near Delhi NCR and provided them food and helped them maintain their basic living standards.

Providing Housing Condition

Housing status in slums is mostly inadequate, and problems include insecure tenure, overcrowding and lack of basic services leading to deplorable living conditions. At the same time, it is empirically evident that it is mainly the poor rural migrants who are forced into informal, even illegal land settlements. It is also true that tenure insecurity itself powers the vicious cycle of poverty. The insecurity of tenure, along with urban poverty, reinforces social exclusion and propagates squatter and slum settlements. Therefore it is our duty to look after them and help them in the upliftment of their basic living standards.

Water supply, Sanitation and Drainage Facilities

Inadequate water supply facilities and poor sanitary conditions can have a deleterious impact on household outcomes. As because of continued urban migration, a congregation of urban poor in slums without safe water supply, inadequate sanitation facilities and increasing resources constraints have led to poor quality of life and community health in slums. It can have also been seen that slums dwellers in India do not have a drainage system of any type. This is another problem of causing infections and deaths because of not sufficient hygiene. As Hindrise supports the government initiative to have proper sanitation facilities, we are helping build up public toilets. We especially are ensuring to spread awareness regarding sanitation and hygiene issues.

Availability of Schools and Health Centers

Over 90% of the slums have a primary school within one kilometre. Likewise, less than 50 % of the slums have a government hospital within one kilometre. We at Hindrise Foundation consider it a need of an hour and has initiated in building up the primary health centres in the slums and out volunteers have campaigns to spread the awareness for health services among slum dwellers in India.

In the Nutshell

Human well-being is broadly considered to include the consumption of goods and services and the access to basic necessities for a productive and socially meaningful life to all sections of the population, especially the deprived slum dwellers in India. They are living below the poverty line. Such a concept of well-being also encompasses individual attainments in areas of education, health and longevity of life as well as a security of tenure and healthy surroundings.