The lives we all live will seem to be much better if you look at the life of a slum dweller. For the record, a slum, as defined by the United Nations agency UN-HABITAT, is a run-down area of a city characterized by substandard housing and squalor and lacking in tenure security. According to the United Nations, the proportion of urban dwellers living in slums decreased from 47 percent to 37 percent in the developing world between 1990 and 2005. However, due to rising population, the number of slum dwellers is rising. One billion people worldwide live in slums and the figure will likely grow to 2 billion by 2030.
India has a whopping 62 million slum dwellers but it aims to be free of shanties through a slew of schemes such as earmarking of 20 percent of developed land in all housing projects for this category.
Much has been talked and said about slum dwellers, but even today, the slum dwellers are the poorest. The very definition of slums points at the acute drinking water and sanitation crisis for the slum dwellers. A slum in India is defined as ‘a cluster inside urban areas without having water and sanitation access’.
The National Sample Survey Organisation survey conducted in 2002 found that in 84% of the notified slums the main water source is through tap water supply. But these numbers mask differences across the states of India. In Bihar none of the slums get water via the tap.
The state admires and appreciates the growth of the entrepreneur, but fails to sympathize with the poor worker. Because of the lopsided policies and lopsided stand of the government, the workers never come out of their poverty and out of their miserable lives. Visit any industrial belt in the metropolitan cities of India and you will find the story repeated time and again.
The state they live in is horrendous. They are the ones most receptive to all the diseases and sexual violence. Most rapes occur in these areas. The slum dwellers face the worst situations but nothing is being done for them. And even if there is something being done, they are not ready to accept it because of their inability to accept change.
All these facts are disturbing, if only one realizes the evil forces that are at play in these ghettos. To liberate them needs more than any government aid. One has to change the entire perception of the people, of all those who live in these ghettos and bourgeoisie class who live beyond. The upper class and elite consider them as viruses that plague the society. Now that attitude needs to be changed first. These poor people need a place in the society more than a dwelling place. The upper segments of the society should empathize with these poor people as all of us are of the same kind. They need guidance more than they need any money or aid. They need awareness that only masses can bring out. They need attention and that is indeed something we can pay and something we should pay.
The writer is the Founder and Editor in Chief at Youth Ki Awaaz
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