What is a slum?
Slum in simple term is a settlement of poor people mostly migrants in urban cities where people starts living in search of shelter. Slums are considered synonym to poverty, misery, malnutrition, unhygienic conditions.
The reason of establishment..
a) Shortage of developed land for housing
When a city expands, it sucks in the villages surrounding it. In the process, the segregated colonies of fishermen, herdsmen, etc., are also sucked in the city. The agricultural land of the village is put to urban land use, whereas the inhabited area of the village is left intact without the infrastructure facilities. In comparison to other areas, the rent and cost of living in these areas would remain low, resulting in overcrowding. Due to the lack of municipal services, slum conditions prevail and over the time, colonies of fishermen, herdsmen and such others become slums.
b) The high prices of land beyond the reach of urban poor
The slums developed in one area of the city, where the poor live get deteriorated in course of time. The area gets congested and overcrowded and in the absence of adequate municipal services, slum conditions increase. For example, in some cities during the 19th century, particularly in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, large industrial units tried to attract and retain their workers by providing small tenements or multi-storied row houses in the pattern of army barracks.
These row houses, called chawls, came up without any co-ordinated planning and were deficient in the basic amenities. The industrial workers who lived there found the residences comfortable enough, but that increased their dependence on their employer. Over time, however, due to the lack of upkeep, dilapidation and so on, most of the chawls have become extremely poor in terms of quality of life.
c) A large influx of rural migrants to the cities in search of jobs
A slum develops as a result of the squatting of poor migrants. Majority of the migrants that come to the city are unskilled workers, who come to the city in search of better living conditions. Their dream usually will not work out and they end up in some low-paid jobs.
As these low paid workers are too poor to rent a house and pay for the urban infrastructure and facilities, such as water, sewerage and drainage, they squat on the vacant public land near the places of work, erect huts and use public facilities. Added to that, the city municipal corporation considers such settlement as illegal and does not provide any municipal services adding to the woes of the settlers and also paving the way for the growth of slums.
In whatever way the slum grows, slum dwellers form part of the urban economy. The slums are known by different names in different regions of India such as ‘Katras’ or ‘Jhuggi-Jhonpari’ in Delhi, ‘Jhopadpatti’ or ‘Chawls’ in Mumbai, ‘Bustees’ in Kolkata, ‘Cheris’ in Chennai and ‘Keris’ in Bangalore. Most of these slum dwellers are either employed in the category of unskilled workers or in the informal sector of the economy as self-employed persons in petty trade, repairs and transport.
Ray of hope…. Really!!?
As already said slums are considered synonym to all the miseries, then how are they a ray of hope? Well you will know that now…
a) Survival skills in the urban cities
Slums represent a survival strategy in the face of insufficient affordable housing and lack of tenure security, often blending production and distribution spaces along with living quarters. They demonstrate innovative shelters and efficient livelihood strategies, which form an important part of the urban ecosystem.
Seeing the recent incidents of communal tensions in various parts of India, like in Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur. People can learn a lot from slums. Here, people from different ethnic groups and different communities live together. They show us how harmony can be maintained irrespective of caste, class and community. So, if you want to see secularism, wander through the streets of slums and you will find people are following their religion and paying homage to other religions as well.
c) Class conversion
In India, where class gap between lower, middle and upper class is widening to a large extent. Many residents of these slums are now trying to level up their class by working and saving their hard earned money. Children are now attending public schools instead of some dilapidated classroom. Previously, a ricshaw puller has now bought 4 more rickshaws and giving employment to several others like him.
d) New TOURIST destinations
Yes, you read it right. Slums are now the new tourist destinations of India and there are various tourist companies which gives you a complete ‘SLUM PACKAGE’, to have an insight of slums. This trend has picked up after the Oscar winning movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Since then, the slums of Mumbai like Dharavi where this movie was shot and delhi are hot tourist destinations.
e) Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)
Well, many will find this abrupt but whatever way you take it, it’s the truth. Slums are the reason for employment of many in NGOs. Still confused? Don’t be. Let me tell you how.
A large number of NGOs are solely dedicated to problems faced by people in slums. They fight for their justice, for the basic amenities that these slum citizens should get, to uplift the condition of these people (many just make false claims and are namesake NGO) and so on. So in short, many NGOs are earning their livelihood because of these slums.
And in last, how can we forget our beloved ‘Netaji’ who recently won his elections by making all sort of false promises, false dreams and of course by bribing them. For whom, slums are nothing more than a wonderland, where he settles one month prior to election to do all sorts of adventures to swing the moods of poor migrants in their favor.
So, slums are a ray of hope not only for the people living but also to those who are alien to these slums… 🙂