By Suman Bhanoo, PRIA
Rapidly growing slums in cities are the key challenges of urbanization. They are posing difficult social, environmental and economic problems. No doubt in developing countries, urbanization is narrowing the gap between people living in the country’s rural and urban area. But simultaneously it’s creating lots of havoc in city administration, management and planning. Lack of proper resources, slow economic process, migration to cities for better career opportunities and speedily growing populations are the vital reason behind slum formation. Lack of reasonable and low-cost housing provided by the government is another reason behind growth of slums. Time to time many actions has been taken for slum development and improvement. Formulation of slum federation is another important step to provide a platform to slum dwellers, where they can put forward their issues to administrative authorities.
On 18th December’2012 at Bapu Nagar, Jaipur, PRIA conducted the slum women’s meeting on slum federation formulation. The main agenda of meeting was to educate people regarding benefits of slum federation and making them aware of various governmental policies like widow pension, old age pension, laborer card and other government schemes. The reason behind choosing the women section was empowerment of women and secondly as compare to men, women have greater communication network within their community and surrounding. Enhancing women’s participation in community activities is an attempt to examine the diverse means in which the women in slums could contribute to better planning and execution of slum development plans. Involvement of women at beginning of planning stage would enhance their participation and make them aware of all activities. Main lacunae behind government’s previous schemes were lack of involvement of female section of slum. Any program that has been prepared without involvement and consideration of female in planning stage, transforms into complete elimination of female from the plan. So before implementing any program it is necessary to understand the socio- psychological behavior of community. If women in slum are provided with encouragement and right guidance, they can surely bring substantial transformation in society.
Along with their community leaders more 23 people from three different slums of Jhalana Doongri zone came to attend the meeting. Jhalana Doongri is one of the very well-known belts of slum in Jaipur lying on Delhi bypass. The conditions of these slums were thoroughly examined by PRIA. Besides all fundamental problems of sanitation, hygiene and lack of basic amenities, the most critical problem existing is of the struggle, that slum dwellers has to go through to avail old age pension and widow benefits offered by government. Meeting was started at 11:00 am. Mr. Gopal Verma, an independent consultant of PRIA started the session with brief introduction regarding the objectives of meeting. Two other members of PRIA Ms. Tripti Sharma and Ms. Suman Bhanoo were there to facilitate the session.
The session gained momentum with the introduction of the respective community leaders, their association with the PRIA and their development work. Mrs. Lalita Saini, community leader from Jhalana-A, Shivpuri Kacchi Basti highlighted her achievements in spreading awareness regarding LIC policy, governmental policies and benefits of labor card. Community leaders of two other slums Jhalan-B and Jhalana Kunda, Mrs. Santosh Chudhary and Mrs. Gulab Kanwar’s narration was concerned to their accomplishments in providing loans from banks. After that all community leaders highlighted problems of their slums. Main problems were hygiene, sanitation, drainage problem, liquor shops, poor road conditions and lack of awareness regarding various government policies.
Coming towards the central issue of meeting Mr. Gopal Verma, highlighted the importance of slum federation by mentioning its significance and functions. He emphasized role of slum federation as a connecting link, which would connect government with slum residents. In very lucid way he explained how slum federation could make things easy for administration and administrators’. Further he pointed slum federation would not only provide platform to the slum dwellers to raise their voices against the humiliation they are facing in day to days life but also work it will for their rights and justice. To alleviate poverty government has launched many schemes but due to illiteracy and lack of awareness slum dwellers are not able to avail all these benefits. So in nutshell formulation of slum federation is an attempt to get people together and make of aware of social welfare schemes running presently to benefit the poor section of society.
Mr. Jagmohan, community leader from Ambedkar Kacchi basti was invited to share his experience on community unity and importance of slum federation. Ambedkar Nagar Katchi Basti is located in Motidungri zone near satkar shopping centre. He highlighted all development related activities in his slum, like how they built roads, got sewerage connection and electricity. There are in total 250 households in this slum. His description was all about saga of community partnership, taking initiative and working collectively.
Due to efforts of all slum residents Ambedkar the slum is equipped with all the basic amenities and infrastructure. That’s why slum has been categorized under “A” grade slum of Jaipur. Most of the people are educated and employed. People in this slum have a decent standard of living. The only problem they face is issues related to land right ownership. Without any doubt this young man’s story was impactful and gave new dimension to participant’s thoughts. The idea behind inviting Mr. Jagmohan is to setting him as a role model, the way he has changed the scenario of his slum.
Significant role of slum federation would be organizing community awareness activities before the starting of any kind of projects, development work and government’s policies. It will act as connecting link between policy makers and common people. It will encourage and motivate slum dwellers regarding various saving and loan schemes. Decentralized set up of slum federation will help in maximizing people’s participation. So slum federation formulation is a democratic initiative to raise voice of people.