Shivani Singh, PRIA
To conduct state level consultation I happen to visit Bhubaneswar. In the visit I got an opportunity to meet people living in slums. To see their life from near, their homes, and listen to the daily struggle they undergo. During my visit to Bhubneshwar I visited two slums areas: Gandhi Basti and Saliya Sahi.
A staff of NIDI organization accompanied me to visit the Gandhi Basti, which was at the back side of Nayapalli Colony. There were four lanes, luxurious hotels, shops, banks and malls in the Nayapalli colony and just two km away there is a slum at the back side named Gandhi Basti. It appeared to me as if the city is like a stage where actors are manifested in front of the audience and the crew stays at the back. The actors are face of the movie but as we know that a lot of people such as hair dressers, light men, cameras men, background dancers, script writes and many more are involved in making a movie. The irony is that in a movie at least the names of people who contribute comes at the end and beginning of the movie are acknowledged but while making a city the contribution of urban poor is not acknowledged anywhere.
In Gandhi Basti I met a family who migrated from Ganjam 12 years back. Adiga Reddy and Lakshmi Reddy live in a dilapidate Kuccha house with no water, electricity and toilets. They have four children who do not go to school. While talking to them I realized that poor not struggles for food, shelter and clothing but for every single thing. As told by Adiga Reddy, “The biggest fear in our mind is the fear to get evicted. We pay 1500-2000 rent every month. As we are daily laborers many times we do not get employment, for past 10 days I did not get work. We live in constant fear of eviction as the day we will not be able to pay the rent they will throw us out.” Adding further he said, “Our CM is getting lots of money for the development of city but nothing is getting utilized.”
On the other hand most of the women work as construction workers building houses and many works as maid in the houses of elite. Lakshmi shared that she goes to work as a maid provides domestic help in terms of washing utensils, cleaning cloths, sweeping, preparing food and many other household chores.
The struggle is not only of Adiga and Lakshmi it of each family who lives there. The only question that arouse in my mind was that, are people living in slums not eligible for rights to education, health, social security, and housing? What can urban rich and the governments do with and for the urban poor who give away their most productive age in either building others person’s houses, in beatifying the city, in taking our waste, and in supporting the most basic institution of society the family. Are we ashamed of working for the betterment of urban poor and the slums cater in so many ways to the city? Is the question.