Changing Scenario in Urban Slum Communities

Nirja Mattoo

Author: Nirja Mattoo

Date: Sun, 2016-09-04 13:45

In India, both income-based poverty definition and consumption-based poverty statistics are in use. Each state in India has its own poverty threshold to determine how many people are below its poverty line to reflect varying regional economic conditions.

The urban slum communities living in poor conditions are affected by deep rooted social problems such as alcoholism, unhygienic environment, domestic violence, communalism, gambling, child abuse etc. To address the issues arising from urban poverty, NGOs and various other stakeholders have made significant efforts to intervene and provide ameliorative services.

Today’s urban slum communities are majorly influenced by various external factors (media, politics, policies, reforms, and activists) affecting their socio-economic status and livelihoods. Social development is slowly adapting to the needs of a complex and competitive environment. This exposure and awareness of the changing needs/desires of members within the communities have created hopes and aspirations amongst the slum dwellers. The urban communities have progressed from basic survival needs to a complex situation of managing growth aspirations within the competitive environment. A slum-dweller is making all the possible efforts not only to survive and make his/her ends meet but also to go beyond basic needs and achieve a better quality of life.

We thus see this orderly transition where poor communities desire to move into the lower middle class category and then further onto the middle class. In this context, one has therefore to look at poverty from a different lens and provide solutions which are long-lasting and sustainable. We need to strengthen the Base or Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP). When the poor are empowered there is development, socio-economic growth and progress. New and creative approaches are needed to convert poverty into an opportunity for all concerned, and that is the challenge!!!!! (C.K. Prahalad)

With this paradigm shift and changing times, the NGOs need to re-visit their role, approach, and respond appropriately to serve the communities. The emphasis is to go beyond service delivery mode  and mobilise people to participate and strengthen their potential. It is only in creating participation and capacity that sustainable solutions can be found.

Inclusive growth:

Entrepreneurship- Financial support in cyclical doses is one of the solutions to resolve chronic poverty issues and build up sustainable economic growth. Micro finance institutions have played a critical role in accelerating micro enterprises. The NGOs have to facilitate the process and mentor these individuals/groups till they complete 5-6 cycles and can reach a break-even situation.

Base of the Pyramid (BoP)- It is strongly felt that large firms can be mobilised to share their resources and knowledge, to scale up and co-create solutions with the local knowledge and commitment of NGOs for the communities that need help. Corporates can bring  efficiency and NGOs can bring innovations and creativity to solve problems that affect the poor. Poverty reduction can result from co-creating a market around the needs of the poor.

Partnership Approach:

For NGOs to be more effective and efficient so as to achieve societal change, partnerships are a powerful tool to empower and ensure representation of local communities in the change process. By working together, sharing resources, knowledge and experience, there is greater impact, ownership and can build stronger communities and institutions for the future.  These partnerships have to be transformational and not transactional with strategic investments, and total stakeholder engagement towards the betterment of the community. In our own context, academic institutions, corporates and non governmental organisations can create magic together if they build true partnerships- partnerships which work together for ‘a common cause of the greater good’.


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It�s hard to find well-informed people for this subject, but you seem like you know what you�re talking about! Thanks

Great Article!! When I gone through this, I remembered an article where Oxfam India visited Slums in Delhi and Lucknow for their betterment. Their Partner is Vigyan Foundation who promotes community organization to demand identify papers, water and sanitation and access to health and education. I just want to quote one of the discussions Oxfam had with those slum peoples. "Why do so many women become leaders?" They replied "The men are away earning money, so women have more time. And anyway, we suffer more: when there is no water, women are hit hardest. Women care about the kids, whereas our husbands just drink. If I have a problem the other women help – that’s what an organization means. We’re illiterate, and we’d never gone outside before, so meeting and interacting like this feels good.” This shows the development of urban people especially Women. The sense of energy and personal progress is inspiring. It shows that urban world is much more promising.

This blog make a very important point about remedying India’s chronic poverty – it’s not just a matter of finance, but also a matter of man-power, innovation, and political will. I completely agree that it’s crucial to generate corporate support for alleviation of poverty. However, these support activities need to go beyond the regular path of funding and checklist solutions of corporate social responsibilities. Corporate entities should be encouraged invest in the research and development of innovative products and processes that lead to ‘hyperlocal’ solutions. Corporate entities can also be encouraged to help develop entrepreneurship in financially disadvantaged communities through corporate-mentorship programs. I also think it important that these same arguments be extended to local communities and individual citizens too. Much like corporate entities, local communities and citizens too can help reduce financial inequity. Very often, citizens in urban areas are keen to participate in social programs. It’s important to develop local governance frameworks that help channelise intentions and convert them to actions. Another important consideration is incentives. Reducing financial inequity needs not just passive contribution in term funding, but active contribution in terms of physical participation by corporate entities and local communities. In order to encourage active contribution it is important to develop appropriate incentive structures for it. One possible solution could be tax rebates for time contribution in social development programs. Much like 80G deductions for financial contributions to relief funds and charitable institutions, these tax rebate solutions can help encourage time contribution by citizens and corporate entities.

Dear Ma’am, After reading your blog the ‘Changing Scenario in Urban Slum Communities’ on the situation of poverty in our country, I felt truly introspective. The profound thought that occurred to me was of how India, a country which had the highest GDP in the 18th century, has been reduced to a country with 22% of its population in poverty. The effect of poverty has been the unintended growth of slums, caused by lack of an alternative and the apathy of the authorities. In your blog you have quite rightly highlighted the shift in the mindset of the poor towards self development. Though we have seen many efforts being put in by various organizations, I strongly feel that either the efforts are not directly towards long term grass root level solutions or that the efforts are merely for the sake of garnering support / publicity / votes etc. If the intent of the authorities and NGOs are truly to manifest into results, I feel they should work in a structured manner by focusing on the root cause leading to creation of slums. Some of the existing programs that can be enhanced are:  Education to the children living in slums, which would have a positive bearing on the next generation.  Awareness programs in slums, especially to the women.  Hand holding families and directing them towards a better path. One of innovations that can be taken up is to encourage the rich to adopt slums for their development. Tax benefits can be given to those rich people who take up such activities and show results. With all this said, the journey to come of out of poverty would be a long one for India. I hope there would be sufficient commitment from government. As a responsible citizen, I have been part of programs of The Rotary club as a volunteer. I would strive to continue contributing in a small way. Thank you

After reading the blog the “changing scenario in urban slum communities”. I fully agree with the situation of poverty and challenges required for the improvement faced in our country. The effect of poverty in India as well as in the world has been the unintended growth of slums. As you rightly said the peoples living in the slums are mainly affected by the alcoholism, unhygienic environment, domestic violence, communalism, gambling, child abuse etc. Because the city migration is becoming increasingly common, with cities experiencing the largest population growth during the past fifty years. As per census if India, the slum population increased in 2001 to 2011, 1743 towns reported has slums in 2001 which increased to 2613 towns reported in 2011. Population projections by the United Nations estimate that by 2030, India’s urban population will grow to 576 million and constitute 40 percent of the total population. Yet, with this increasing urbanization, the nation is experiencing new challenges that are characterized by the urbanization of poverty with almost one out of four poor persons living in urban slum communities. And the problems with housing, sanitation, pollution, and physical space, as well as access to water, electricity and health services make communities more prone to ill health within the peoples living in urban slum communities. The main challenges are, the need to understand changes in urban and rural communities and their implications. Providing maximum opportunities for the people who live below poverty line for self- development. We have seen many efforts being put in by various organizations, for their development, however the efforts are not directed towards long term solutions or the efforts are mainly made for the sake of garnering support / publicity / votes etc. by our politicians and the NGOs. If the intent of the authorities and NGOs are truly to manifest into results, then they should work on the children education living in the slums, creating awareness program for the women’s and directing them regarding, the facilities provided by the government and the other private organization in terms of facilities and employment opportunities, for their self-development and to make them live respectful life in the societies. It is also true that many people below poverty line are getting educated and employed under the provisions made by the government and private organization and they are also getting opportunities to create good platform in this urban communities.

The article is an eye opener for me, in the sense that I always thought that the only way that a NGO can operate is by conducting research, identifying areas where they can work, finalizing their objective and finally delivering services. But without active participation of the people, any change instilled by NGOs will not be sustainable. Professor Mattoo has very rightly opined that a sustainable solution for poverty in India can only be found through mobilizing people to participate and strengthen their potential. Lack of industry-relevant skill is one of the main hurdles that the youth in slum communities face when looking for a better livelihood. With the objective of providing Industry-relevant training, Govt. of India has designed a scheme called “Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana”. However, most of such schemes are not availed by the slum communities due to lack of education and information. NGOs should educate and guide the women and the youths in the slum communities, which will allow them to access such Govt. schemes. Companies, in order to meet their requirement of skilled labor, can arrange skill development programmes for the youths in urban slum and later on recruit them. Self-employment ventures and micro enterprise can bring in big changes in the lives of a community. Government schemes like PM’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) are designed to provide financial assistance in the form of credit linked subsidy for the self-employment ventures and micro enterprises. Moreover, there are more than 1000 Microfinance institutions (MFIs) in India, which lend money to aspiring entrepreneurs without credit histories. The NGOs should provide assistance to any individual or group, having the required skill set and sustainable project proposals, for obtaining the required funds through Government schemes or MFIs. The micro enterprises will create number of jobs and few other families living in the same community will also be benefited. With the increase in income, the socio-economic status of the slum dwellers will improve and they will be able to provide a better future for the next generation. This will be achievable only if the Government, NGOs, Corporates and academic institutions join hands and ensure the active participation of the communities in the change process.

Thank you, Ma'am, for an insightful article. I rightly agree that sustainable solution for poverty in India can only be found by mobilizing people to participate and strengthen their potential. An article in TOI stated about few NGOs & Social welfare groups in Mumbai who are working with poor to draw a five-point plan to make Mumbai slum-free as they believe helping poor will help them to grow themselves. Their focus primarily is on slum redevelopment and generation of affordable housing, implementation of work and life concept to allow formalization of the informal economy with legal entitlements and jobs. If we gaze back in history, we will find that slums go long back in time. But many countries took timely steps and introduced legislations to build low-income housing facilities with minimum standards. India still has a long way to go…Taking the size of the task in consideration, a helping hand from every stratum is required. Not only NGOs or measures taken by the government or young minds of India but steps taken collectively by all including the poor themselves (self-help groups) will provide a sustainable solution for poverty in India. The government is creating better spaces for dwellers, youths are preparing them for the new responsibilities, lessons on how to keep surroundings clean, the importance of education, sanitation habits and role of women which will help them to grow and reach their dreams. There are many projects catering to health and nutrition for poor children so that they can lead a happy and healthy childhood. Organizations like “Save the Children” are also doing great work in slums, in tribal areas and in remote villages in India to help the children. This still has a long way in achieving true development. NGOs play a vigorous role in shaping the society even for the generations yet to come as they are the force which directs the political discourse towards achieving equitability and sustainable growth. They run substantial awareness and developmental programs to terminate the factors that trigger poverty. While there is no dearth of organizations working towards providing the underprivileged kids with food and education, few are focusing on arts – especially dancing. A group called “Dance Out Of Poverty” is focusing to give the extra push to these kids passionate about dancing to take their talent ahead. With the help of DOOP, around 10 students have found jobs in dancing, with some working as assistant choreographers and others engaging in freelancing. I guess more of us need to jump on the urban bandwagon and do a lot more to drive action and balance the rural-urban divide.

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