Slum: The Land Of Imminent Opportunities

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By Varun Sharma:

Narrow alleys circling huts with plastic roofs, open drainages jammed with poly bags and heaps of stinking mud, piles of garbage accumulating in corners and dark passages. This is not the plot of any Hollywood movie depicting life after end-of-the-world but is the truth in which a large chunk of population is struggling. Slums are the realities we are ashamed of. Urban well off scorn at their sight, shudder and wish these souvenirs of rapid industrial growth disappear from the face of their otherwise beautiful cities but to their dismay, it does n’t happen.

According to U.N.’s biennial report this year, the total number of poor in the world has grown to 827.6 million powered by migration and population growth. Although some 227 million people escaped the clutches of slums from 2000 to 2010, the increase of 55 million is still a big addition. In India, Dharavi- Asia’s biggest slum spans over 1.75 square kilometers and includes an estimated 600,000 to 1 million dwellers. It is said that 55% of the population of Mumbai lives in slums, which cover only around 6% of the city’s land.

These deeply engraved pictures of a shantytowns in our minds is the result of what we notice from air conditioned cabinets of our cars but a slum goes much beyond that. The bitter pill which we have to swallow is that without these slums, the machinery of the urban lands will break down miserably. These slums support the small industries by supplying labor and semi finished goods without which the middle and large scale industries will suffer a massive blow. Leather dying, garment embroidery, recycling centers, bakeries, soap-making and clay-pot manufacturing are some of them. To clear the air about the quality of these outputs, the leather tanning and dyeing factories currently produce material for big name brands such as Gucci.

If we gaze back in history, we will find that slums goes long back in time. It is something universal. In early 19th century when the present superpowers (America and Europe) were not so powerful, they witnessed migration of people from small towns to urban cities sniffing employment opportunities and better access to basic amenities. This lead to the emergence of poorly built and overcrowded housing facilities. But unlike India, These countries took timely steps and introduced legislations to build low-income housing facilities with minimum standards.

The scenario is fast changing to the good of the dwellers as well for the city. Slum development in India is the new wave which is sweeping the down trodden areas and converting them into habitable and hygienic living spaces. Providing basic infrastructure, sanitation, education facilities, lightning and community spaces are the top priorities in the minds of the change makers.

Government have launch padded programmes like National Slum Development Programme(NSDP), Integrated housing and Slum Development Programme (IHSDP) to revive the inhabitants from these dark ghettos. While NSDP is a central government initiative under the observation of Urban Affairs ministry, IHSDP is managed by state government machinery.

Taking the size of the task in consideration, a helping hand from every strata is required. While government is creating better spaces for dwellers, youth can help preparing them for the new responsibilities. Lessons on how to keep your surroundings clean, importance of education, sanitation habits and role of women will help them adapt to the much awaited good life. With the help of NGO’s, young minds can help educate the lads who never got the opportunity the see a black board or to hold a pencil in their worn out hands. Every effort towards the betterment of these young minds should be nourished and encouraged if we hope for a better society to live in.

Image courtesy: http://www.fig.net/news/news_2007/nairobi_habitat_gc_04_2007.htm

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