Friends with benefits!

Delhi went to Vote today. Slum dwellers might have gone to repay the ‘gifts’ and ‘benefits’ received in last few days attached with string of promises, may be only to face coming years where no gift or right of any kind shall come their way.

Politics clearly plays with slum dwellers. From freely circulating liquor bottles, cash and deals struck with local goons of the slums, electoral politics first battle field are the large vote bank of slum dwellers. Interestingly, as one of slum dweller mentioned in the dialogue organised by PRIA for Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty, last week – Some of the Delhi slums have even lost their fate to be ‘resettled’ in already built houses – just in case the large vote bank of 3000 people is lost from one ward to another, in this crucial moment.

Urban development therefore only lives five year tenure in most cities. Mayor of the city approved many projects in his term, least affected by how the city shall ever fund or implement these. After all it’s not his headache. Local MLA and ward counsellors have a strong hold on all the slums in their constituency and in most cases benefit by slums remaining as slums and even growing. Twined in this electoral politics the rights of the citizens like water, electricity, sewage are often given as acts of patronage. The most profound right – of ownership – is held back till the end, ensuring a near total dependence on the political establishment.

Slum dwellers are also one step ahead. At the peak election times, each slum dweller mastered by some local goon puts a price to its vote… oh ever so precious vote. Politics and slums – Friends with benefits, and no strings attached!


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