By Sri. G. Jose, Project Manager, Sahayi
With the intention of strengthening civil society voices on urban poverty in Kerala, Sahayi in collaboration with PRIA, New Delhi and SPARC, Mumbai has initiated a promotional and facilitative role in Kerala. . As first step of its intervention, Sahayi organised a city level consultation on urban poverty in Kollam Corporation on May 26, 2012 and 76 participants participated in the programme and a state level consultation at Thiruvanthapuram on the 28th of May with 30 participants.
Kollam saw participation of The Municipal Corporation Councilors, civil society organisation representatives, leaders of Community Development Societies and other community based organisations, residents associations , officials, representatives of different agencies which undertake poverty reduction programmes like RAY, KSUDP, Kudumbasree and media personnel. At Thiruvanthapuram participants comprised leading civil society organisations like Malankara Social Service Society, Trivandrum Social Service Society, World vision India, Loyola Extension Service; Community Development Society, corporation councilor, officials from urban poverty alleviation cell, residents association leaders, project officer from Rajeev Awas Yojana etc.
Director of Sahayi, Sri. G. Placid highlighted the current trend of growth of population in urban area and the issues related to high density of population such as increased urban poverty, Increase in the number of slums, unemployment, lack of basic amenities and services and increasing violence and crime. He added that the magnitude of urban unemployment is increasing due to the weakness of the economy, short sighted vision of the planners, non-sustainability of the initiated actions through different projects and programmes. He also stated that in Kollam Municipal Corporation area most of the urban poor are working in unorganized sector such as fishing, cashew manufacturing workers, domestic work; street vending etc. Their low economic status forced them to live in slums and colonies. He further shared the availability and utilization of plan fund by the municipalities and corporation during the 11th five year plan period in Kerala, and the low profile of spending in Corporations during the year 200-2008-2010-2011 especially in anti-poverty programmes, women component plans etc
Sri. A.A.Assis, Hon’ble Member of Legislative Assembly and State Secretary of Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) at Kollam mentioned that even though Municipal Corporations and state Government have developed policies, prepared programmes and budgets and implemented such programmes for urban poverty reduction those who are responsible for its implementation are implementing such activities without understanding the true spirit. The powers now vest in people but the people are not yet prepared themselves to take up and effectively make use of the powers. So he stressed the need for empowering the community especially the poor and marginalised and ensures the effective conduct of Ward Sabhas/Ward Committees with active participation of the community.
Adv. Lalu, Deputy Mayor, Kollam Municipal Corporation opined that the major challenges they faced with regard to the rehabilitation of slum dwellers/urban poor were shortage of land and rapid increasing land price and the unwillingness of slum dwellers to move into new premises, slums are on railway land and even the indicators developed for BPL identification are inadequate.
During the experience sharing session, the welfare standing committee Chairman of Kollam Corporation, who is in-charge of Kudumbasree activities, stated instead of allotting funds to pre-determined programmes, programmes to be developed on the basis of felt needs identified through participatory methods. Moreover, implementation of the programmes to be monitored and their efficacy to be evaluated by the community. But unfortunately no such intervention is happened so far. He further stated that the LSGs are preparing projects first and then think of beneficiaries and this is the drawback of many poverty reduction schemes.
Shri. Karthikeyan at Thiruvanthapuram, Programme officer, Rajeev Awas Yojana State Cell explained the activities of RAY in improving the living conditions of slum dwellers. Rev. Fr. Sabbas Ignatius, Director, Trivandrum Social Service Society(TSSS) and Rev. Fr. John Vilayil, Director, Malankara Social Service Society presented the work their respective organisations do on urban poverty issues.
The participants raised several key issues in connection with poverty reduction and pointed out certain remedial measures to address the issues. The major issues highlighted by them include; lack of coordination among various agencies working for poverty reduction, lack of sincere attempt on the part of authorities to ensure people’s participation, apathetic attitude of community members towards welfare/development activities, beneficiary oriented approach of urban poor, improper identification of the needs of the area and the beneficiaries, non accessibility of information on the status of urban poverty reduction programmes, limited involvement of community members in the implementation and monitoring of various programmes due to several reasons, lack of awareness among various stakeholders including urban poor regarding poverty reduction programmes and the components in each programmes, lack of unity and coordination among CBOs.