The Nexus Between Urban Poverty And Housing In India

Posted on September 27, 2012 in Society

By Adeena Jamal:

Pune, India: Mona, is a woman in her mid 30’s who is a domestic help. She is physically and sexually exploited by her husband every alternate day. She has three children, and her monthly salary from all the houses she works at is Rs.5000. Her house is just a room. In that amount of money, she runs her house, looks after her alcoholic husband and educates her children.

Pune, India: Twenty year old Amrita is from Mumbai, and is studying law. She has a 2BHK flat where her monthly rent is Rs.15000. Her monthly allowances are approx Rs.30,000 and she has a car. She has a domestic help who cooks food and cleans the house. The remaining money, she splurges on shopping and club hopping every alternate day. She smokes a box of Marlboro Lights every day. And that alone costs her Rs.4800 a month.

The coincidence so happens, that Mona works at Amrita’s house. The same locality. The same city. Yet the disparity.

India’ s population has crossed the one billion mark and has become the second largest after China at 1027 million with an urban  population of 27.7 percent (285 million in 2001).The latest figures for 2000-2001 were Rs.11 per person per day in the rural areas and Rs.17 in Delhi. A clerk in any office in Delhi would spend that amount of money travelling to and fro work by bus.

The International poverty line is two dollars a day. Yet in India, a country that swears by globalisation, the poverty line remains at 40 cents a day. It is clear from the above that urban population, especially the poor have been increasingly rapid in these cities. The forces of the globalisation and urbanisation are throwing up new challenges for understanding the urban poverty. Urban Poverty in India and other places across the globe manifests in several forms. The most viable forms are proliferation of slums and bastees, fast growth of informal sector, increasing ‘casualization’ and under employment of labour along with acute pressure on civic services. Thus the poor are not only income poor, but are also marginalised and vulnerable on other courts. Urban poverty and growth of slums in India have come to reflect a skewed development process. The most important issue emerging is housing and tenure security, as the first key need. The house and tenure security in urban area helps poor people to lead a dignified living by getting assurance of living and earning a livelihood.


The Indian government policy on Urban Poverty takes a three pronged approach:

(a) enhancement of productive employment and income for the poor

(b) improvement in general health and welfare services and

(c) improvement in infrastructure and build environment for poor neighbourhoods.

Currently the SJSRY( Swarna Jayanti Shehri Rojgar Yojna) is the main anti-poverty program. These include the urban wage employment; the self employment; formation of self groups; the development of woman and child among others.

Also realising the basic needs of housing for urban poor Government has been implementing the Valmiki Ambedkar Malin Basti Awas Yojna( VAMBAY) and trying to make it available to the needy at an affordable cost. Government announced an allocation of Rs.100 crores for this scheme. In addition a number of other schemes like Nirmal Bharat Yojna ( National Urban Sanitation Program), National Slum Development Program(NSDP) , the Integrated Development of Small and Medium Towns ( IDSMT) and Liberation of Scavengers etc. exist.


The plans and policies of the government do not address this issue in a holistic way. The city master plans do not recognize the marginalised settlements and do not provide space in the future plans for their specific needs. The mismatch between demand and supply , growing land prices and speculative nature of land markets in cities have made it impossible for the poor to afford legal access to residential land, regardless of how minimal their land needs may be.

The major programs of the government for redressal of poverty in the urban areas in the past have focussed on provision of housing, environmental improvement in slums and the urban basic service for the poor. These have had mixed results however. Local governments and basic line departments of the government, which have most of the responsibility for managing the urban change and overseeing poverty reduction, often lack capacity and resources and cannot solve the problem alone. Community and private sector must be mobilised. (Report on the Cities Alliance Annual Public Policy Forum)

A broader agenda on tenure and housing rights and provision of other basic services and livelihood s needs to be developed after critically analyzing them . It is suggested that civil societies as a group must support the poor urban community in a manner that helps them to assert their basic rights including opposition to the forced eviction. Advocacy, campaigning and direct intervention activities.