PRIA’s interface with Slums of Patna

By Abhishek Jha, Ast. Programme Officer- PRIA

Patna, the capital of Bihar State is the largest and one of the oldest city in Bihar and right from the beginning, all the major economic activities of the state have remained concentrated to this city of Bihar.  Predominantly, the natural quest of human beings to be in proximity to profit, for a better life and pursuit for better livelihood options has always stimulated people to migrate and undoubtedly this is more dominant among those belonging to lower income groups of the society, the same stands true for the state of Bihar. Besides Patna being one of the most vibrant center of the state, has always attracted people and the city has served as destination to these people since the time India attained its freedom. These migrations have served to an extent to the formation of slums. At present there are slums in this city which have history of more than 65 years. It has been a question of debate since long how many slums exist in Patna.

Notwithstanding the above mentioned facts, ironically no slum policy existed in the state of Bihar till December 2011. It was only after the above mentioned date; Bihar State Slum Policy came into existence, which defines slums as “A compact area of at least 20 ‘slum like households’ of poorly built congested tenements, in unhygienic environment usually with inadequate infrastructure and lacking proper sanitation and drinking water facilities.”          

According to estimates of Census of India 2001, only 0.25 percent of the total population resides in the slums of Patna, but to its contrary, CDP of Patna which was prepared in July 2006 estimates that 63.5 percent of Patna’s population resides in slums. Keeping these contradictions in view, Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) conducted the listing of slums which lies within Patna Municipal Area (PMC). The listing of slums was also aimed at creating own database of PRIA, and to have a better understanding of the factors which act as hindrances in the development/ progress of these slums.

PRIA, along with its local partner Nav Manas Kalyan Samitti (NMKS) conducted the listing of slums in Patna. The Patna Municipal Corporation area comprises 72 wards, which are spread in……..sq kms. The wards were constituted and ward boundaries were defined in the year 2007, the same year Bihar State Municipal Act was also passed and this is being followed till date.

Hence, to make the whole process feasible, entire Patna Municipal Corporation was divided in to four zones viz. East, West, North and South and efforts were made that every slums present in these zones are covered in the listing process. Draft list (unpublished) of slums prepared by DFID-SPUR (this agency provides technical support to Bihar State Urban Development Agency) for PMC was used as a reference list for verification of slums. Altogether, 10 researchers were used in this process of listing, who were given a basic orientation on how the listing process will be carried out and as a part of this small meetings were organized at ward level for identifying slum like structures with the help of people, who further contributed in locating the slums. The entire process of listing of the slums was completed in 12 days.  Informal meetings were also organized with the community for physical verification of the slums and it also helped in understanding the process how their settlements came into existence. Various issues like land ownership, caste and household composition, access to basic services viz. electricity, education, water supply, PDS etc. were discussed with the community during the process of listing.

The entire process contributed in creating data base of slums existing in PMC area, which will further help in developing strategies for future interventions (Profiling, building civil society voices , advocacy etc.). Findings from the listing of slums will further be shared with various stakeholders like slum dwellers, UDD, PMC, CSOs etc. for deriving future strategies.

Summary of findings:

A total of 99 slums were listed in PMC which comprises of almost  15163 households if we further bifurcate it on the basis of caste composition, there were approximately 1439 minority, 9645 Scheduled Caste, 3781Backward Caste and 298 General Category. This means near 64 percent of the slum population belong to Scheduled Castes category. During the listing of slums 4 slum like settlements viz. New Khajbanna Gauriya Sthan Mandir, Loharwa Ghat AlamGanj Chouki, Chakbinda near Hanuman Mandir, Road No: 13, Gardanibagh were also found which had less than 20 households   and if we refer the definition of slums in the Bihar State slum policy mentioned above ,those slum like structures having less than 20 households cannot be considered as slums.

Slums in Patna are located on various sites ( on bed of water bodies, canal side,  near drainage,  on forest department land, on land filling sites ,below high tension wire, on sides of rail track  on road side and at central locations of the city. Out of 99 Slums 56 slums are located on non-tenable government land (on the basis of Bihar State Slum Policy) 12 slums are on Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) land, 22 slums on own/private land 3 slums have been resettled. On tenability issue, (in some of the slums with own lands) we were given impression from the slum dwellers that ownership of the land is their own and accordingly we consider it as their own land. The Slums situated on own land, in general had better access to basic services whereas slums located on government land had lesser/ no access to basic services.  Further, the structure of dwellings changed predominantly with the land ownership status those on private/own lands have permanent concrete structures and residents differ in economic status from one another while those on lands other than their own lived in temporary/makeshift structures which are vulnerable towards untoward incidences very often (it was observed during the listing process). 8 slums whose names were mentioned in the draft list (unpublished) of slums prepared by DFID-SPUR for PMC could not be located during the process of listing. 

Amidst of all the findings mentioned above, among legal documents, Voter Identity Card was available with 90 percent of the Slum Dwellers, when they were inquired about this, people informed that those contesting elections from their wards sincerely took efforts to get the names of slum dwellers enrolled in the voter list. As the denizens of slum were the most reliable voters for them, on the promises that, all the issues of the slums will be addressed if the said candidate wins.

Status of some basic services in the Slums of Patna:

S. No Services Availability in number of Slums
1 Drinking Water Supply 11
2 Electricity Connections 30
3 PDS 89
4 Anganwadi 68

Concluding remarks

Even though, the research team had a reference list of slums; locating the slums were not so easy task and the researchers had to struggle to locate smaller slums. (whereas locating larger slums was easier) along with it identifying ward boundaries was a difficult task as people in general do not know about their wards. Further, despite our team put in their best efforts to list all the slums, possibilities of slums other then those covered in the listing process and those in the draft list (unpublished) of slums prepared by DFID-SPUR for PMC cannot be ruled out. It was also observed, several CSOs have made interventions addressing various issues, but they could not live up to the expectations of people and this contributed towards illusion of masses, at present  people were not too keen to provide the required information.

Slums here in Patna have always been the vote banks of many political parties hence they are politically sensitive and have connections with political parties, therefore sensitive issues regarding policies and their implementation needs to be handled with care. Along with it, in most of the slums different groups with vested interests exist, who may not support each other’s ideas and ways to bring them together needs to be explored for strengthening their voices. It was clearly visible in most of the slums that participation of government machinery is very bleak and a lot effort needs to be made for making the machinery accountable towards their responsibility for slum dwellers.  





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