A slum is a highly populated urban residential area consisting of tightly-packed old housing units in a situation of deteriorated and incomplete infrastructure. Inhabited primarily by impoverished people, according to the census of 2011, India is home to more than 65 million slum dwellers living across the country. As per the Handbook of Urban Statistics, 2019, published by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, 29.4% of India’s population represent the poorest of the urban poor living in slums. The growth of slums is highest in the five states with the highest urban populations — Maharasthra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
Dharavi in Mumbai city is spread across 175 hectares, housing almost a million people. About 70% of the population is Hindu and the rest Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc. With an economy of $1 billion per year, the district has an estimated 5000 businesses and 15,000 single-room factories. Dharavi houses a number of industries like recycling, making clay pots, embroidery, bakery, soap factory, leather tanning, papad (poppadom) making and many others.
Though most of the goods produced are sold in the Indian markets without a brand name, many of these like embroidered clothes, clay pots, etc. are exported worldwide. In addition to the traditional pottery and textile industries in Dharavi, there is an increasingly large recycling industry, processing recyclable waste from other parts of Mumbai. Around 80% of Mumbai’s garbage is recycled at the Dharavi recycling industry.
The people living in Dharavi are known to have migrated from various regions of India. The leather tanners in this area are the local Maharashtrians and from Tamil Nadu (including Tamil Muslims), the potters from Gujarat, the embroiders from north India, etc. In terms of its enterprise industry, Dharavi surprisingly utilizes its resources and space; approximately 85% of the population is locally employed.
The most dominant industry in Dharavi is the leather industry. This industry employs thousands of people living in these slums and has an approximate turnover of ₹120 million. Manufacturers from Dharavi are known to export cheap, but pure leather goods, to many European and Middle Eastern Countries.
People of Dharavi are used to seeing tourists and do not mind being observed. They understand and appreciate that the tourism enterprise benefits their community. A tourist agency, known as ‘Reality Tours’, even specializes in conducting these tours for Indian and Foreign Nationals.
The slum dwelling community is largely recognized as unorganized labour. They do not have any union to provide them bargaining power. Due to lack of government documents like Voter card, Aadhaar card and Ration card, the socio-economic inclusion of slum dwellers does not happen. Bank accounts also cannot be opened without these identity documents from the government. Hence, the strategy of acquirement of government documents in a systematic approach should be implemented for ensuring socio-economic and financial inclusion of the slum dwellers.
There is a need for exploring alternative livelihood options, especially for the women. Probable challenges like a lack of skills and market opportunities while assessing other viable livelihood options are faced by the slum dwellers. In this case, expert livelihood promotion organizations should be involved for doing need assessments, market studies/viability assessments, including assessments of the perception/mindset and aspirations of the slum dwellers towards alternative livelihood and designing the said programs accordingly.
Geographical mapping of corporate offices to plan the mobility of particular groups of rag-pickers would be an important strategy to make it financially viable, that is to bear the infrastructural costs like transport, etc. for collecting waste from a certain area. This would definitely yield more revenue than just collecting from one office per visit. If one giant corporate is tapped on, then attempts could be made at mobilizing other smaller firms and offices in and around that location to increase the amount of waste per visit to the area. Apart from the corporate offices, linkage can also be established with Residential Complexes, Multi-Storied apartments, Commercial Complexes including shopping malls (these are increasing fast and thus a potential source of waste collection, till the time compactor machines enter these places), parks, tourist places and other public places.
Both children and adult education needs to be promoted. Exploration of alternative education needs to be undertaken through open education system, closely working with ICDS and government schools, etc. There is a need to closely work with the schools and SMC on Right to Education and Quality of Education.
The strategy to mainstream all drop outs and enroll out of school children is a necessary strategy. Informal coaching centers are effective institutional establishments, because they prepare the children for formal schools and ensure that they do not drop out once enrolled by providing them additional support free of cost. The capacity of the education centers needs to be increased by identifying places/increasing number of teachers/increasing number of batches.
Other means like training programs, group activities, street plays could be explored to develop their leadership qualities and communication skills. The adolescents could be entrusted with a more active role in spreading awareness and advocate for child rights in the community. Most importantly a sense of value addition to their own community needs to be developed among the adolescent groups.
Awareness generation and referral services through health camps need to be practiced. However, health camps should be continued only with the support of the government and other NGOs. They should also make steady efforts towards increasing the rate of immunization in the slum communities.