||Challenges in Slum Upgradation: Need Innovative Approaches
Dr. Adesh Chaturvedi
India’s economy has grown by an average of 8 % annually over the past few years, and yet a quarter of its population of 1.1 billion still lives on less than a dollar per day. The number of people living in slums in India has grown up rapidly in recent past and more than the population of Britain. Besides health, education and wedges, housing to the urban poor is a big challenge and cause of concern for the governments. Central and State Governments are trying to provide housing to the people from low-income-groups/slums of urban areas. Central Government’s ambitious project- “Jawahar Lal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM)” has substantial funds and provisions to make available the housings for the urban poor. Prima-facie, it seems a very good attempt by the government, but at the same time, if we look back on the similar programs/efforts and analyse the net outcome, we will discover another side of the coin. The slums upgradation and providing affordable housing to the slum dwellers is not an easy task and needs to be thought differently to come to grips with the situations.
Reasons of slums creation particularly in the country like India are obvious i.e. Adverse change in agricultural scenario, low prospects in rural areas as compare to bigger opportunities in cities and preference for labour market than agriculture (which anyway is on its downfall due to scanty rainfall and lowering of ground water level). As we approach the status of developed countries, we need to address the challenges of slums up-gradation by multiple means, because Slums are equal to Poverty. The results of slums are - poor living conditions, very less or no education, extremely poor hygiene conditions and awful health care services and the resultant extreme low status.
As per the estimation (2001 census), around 62 million people live in Slums in India which is around 5.6 % of total Indian population. Sadly around 8 million of this population are young children (0-6 age group), who are the nation builders. The situations in big cities particularly metros are more severe where almost a quarter of the population lives in slums like condition. State wise scenario reveals that States like Pondichery, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chasttisgarh have more than one third slum population while states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka and Bihar have a low slum population which varies from 10% to 16% of their total population. According to the Ministery for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (2007), it will cost India 4 trillion rupees to build the estimated 24 million housing units needed to accommodate India’s slum-dwellers.
Upgrading the slums is not merely shifting the slum dwellers into multistoried houses, it needs much more concerted efforts to be worked upon both with body and the soul. We need to learn from the countries like Israel, which addressed the Urban Poor issues by introducing favourable policies and innovative approaches. In Israel, although they do not have slums as we have in India, they framed their policies for addressing the needs of the urban poor and cater those needs by involving private players in a more flexible and effective manner. They created a conducive environment for the private investors without compromising in the statutory plan of the country. The policies and the implementation of the policies towards upgrading the urban poor in Israel is such that end of the day all the key players i.e. inhabitants of slum like areas, private investors, municipality (who is primarily responsible for the development of urban slums) and the government found themselves in a win-win situation.
If we adopt stereotype approach, we will get the same result and we will remain with the same slums (rather more in numbers) at the end of the project cycles. As far as the history of slum dwellers and their behaviour & attitude are concerned, our learning says that the Slum dwellers have the inherent tendency to remain at their places and are reluctant to move to any other places offered by the Government. Even if they shift, they come back slowly and gradually to that particular place from where they were moved. They do not have means to earn their bread & butter on a regular basis due to poor education, limited skills, lack of entrepreneurship, social evils and importantly less faith on the Government (Local and National). Importantly, they are accustomed to the poor living conditions and lack drives of upward mobility. Repeated poverty cycles become leading grounds for criminality and poor quality of life.
Therefore, it is high time to think out of the box and need to introduce multi-dimensional, multi-focused and holistic approach (no piece meal approach will work). We have to work not only with the physical aspects i.e. houses, roads, sewerage, health clinics, school buildings, shops for business and playgrounds /parks etc. of the slums and slum dwellers but also address the functional aspects i.e. psychological, social, economical, domestic and community aspects. Innovative approach i.e. inviting private players with specific Terms of Reference, addressing both, physical and functional aspects carefully and efficiently, need to be introduced. This approach will have three main players – Municipality, Private Players, & Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and will have three major components – (i) NGO intervention for addressing functional aspects; (ii) low cost houses for slum dwellers and (iii) modern high rise residential apartments and commercial mall for higher classes on sale. Besides, municipality and government will be in the monitoring and supporting role and at the end of the day will get taxes and other collections.
To begin with, the government should initiate the slum up-gradation under the practical leadership of municipality (local government) so that trust can be build up with the slum dwellers and address the functional issues of slum dwellers i.e. skill up-gradation for actual income generation; improve functional literacy by identifying illiterates/neo literates/ semi literates; providing better health care services particularly maternal & Child health care and emergency services; ensure quality in primary & secondary education; work upon reduction of alcoholism; drug consumption; domestic violence and general crime and developing the cooperative culture and team spirit among slum dwellers. All these should be done by involving NGOs, who have the credibility in behaviour change communication and community mobilisation. The municipality should be in the close contact with the NGOs and slum dwellers on a regular basis.
Every decision needs to be shared with slum dwellers and ensuring their consent will be the key of success. Once the stage is set, the functional aspects are being addressed, the private players can be engaged with specific Terms of References, wherein they can be asked to upgrade the slum areas by constructing low cost affordable eco-friendly multi-storeyed houses for the slum dwellers in one part of the slum land (which is in most of the cases, government’s or municipality’s land occupied illegally by the slums dwellers) with all the facilities i.e. sewerage, sanitation, road, light, tapped water, small shops for business and park/playground. In lieu of this, the other (comparatively larger) part of the slum land could be given free of cost to the private players to build high rise modern residential apartments and commercial malls. The private players have to ensure the terms of the municipality and should also be accountable to the slum dwellers to provide housings and other facilities at first place and then initiate the commercial and residential buildings for sale. The areas between slum dwellers and higher class society should be demarcated in camouflaged manner so that the value of the high raise buildings can be maintained.
The NGOs will provide skill up-gradation among the slum dwellers for practically improving their incomes and will introduce those trades /skills, which can easily get the market in the nearby areas. For identifying such lucrative trades, the NGOs have to go for baselines assessment study. The requirements for various skilled, semi skilled and other important supports i.e. plumbers, drivers, security guards, electricians, gardeners, tailors, household workers, carpenters, masons, sales persons in shops, small entrepreneurs i.e. handicraft, bakery, fruit/vegetables/egg/meat/fish vendors, grocery stores etc. for the nearby market and habitation can be meet out from these trained skilled slum dwellers. In additions to the skill development, the NGOs have to work on education, health and sanitation issues and give due emphasis on behaviour change towards the same. Other social problems i.e. alcoholism, drug, crime, domestic violence etc. would be addressed by the NGOs involved for addressing these functional aspects, which are very important to take care off.
Once it completed, all the actors will find themselves in a win-win situation i.e. the slum dwellers will get quality of life (affordable houses on a very minimal Estimated Monthly Instalments-EMIs built by the private builder, raised income and skills, better social and domestic life and better environment), the private player will earn by selling residential apartments and commercial malls on the slum land which they will get virtually free of cost (in general, slums are located at the prime location and thus have high land value) and the municipality and Government will get property taxes and very low EMIs from slum dwellers in lieu of the housings and will get their city cleaned, un-patched that too without spending any substantial funds. Here it is important to mention that the slum dwellers must be educated for paying very low EMIs (as low as Rs. 10-20 per day) for getting the lease of their houses in their own names. This will help in developing the ownership of the houses among the slum dwellers.
Here we should not forget the risks attached to this innovative approach – risk of getting right kind of NGOs; efficient and patient private builders; honest implementation of government schemes on education, health sanitation etc.; resistance from the slum dwellers and change in political and bureaucratic leadership. Nonetheless, regular handholding by political and bureaucratic leadership (municipality) and taking slum dwellers on board will reduce the risks substantially.
Dr. Adesh Chaturvedi is currently working as Associate Professor in Goa Institute of Management, Goa and had worked with UNDP, UNOPS, European Commission, EPOS Health India, Care India, Project Concern International and Indian Institute of Health Management Research etc. Dr. Adesh has done Masters in Social Work, besides, LLB, Personnel Management and PhD in Adolescent Health. In his 17 years of professional career,he has worked extensively from grassroots level to policy level and was closely associated with central and state governments. Several research based papers, book reviews, newspaper articles on various issues i.e. Health, Sanitation, Community Mobilisation, Urbanisationetc. are to his credit. He is the co-author of a book “Urbanizing India: Challenges and Response”. Dr. Adesh travelled extensively in India and abroad.He is a certified trainer. Dr. Adesh is a thinker, scholar and social worker.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org