by Abhishek Jha, PRIA Bihar
In the last few decades Urban Poverty has been emerging as a key developmental challenge for a developing economy like India. This has also been well established by the data provided by the most recent Census of India (2011). Undoubtedly many initiatives have been taken by the government and parastatal agencies to address the challenges and issues of urban poverty, but one the problem which has remained persistent is the issue of inclusion and acceptance of the urban poor in the larger urban society.
Its notable that majority of these urban poor work in the urban informal sector which ultimately provides critical services to the cities, right from keeping the cities clean, to providing cheap labour, domestic help, cheap transport, just to name a few. The fact of lacuna in policies cannot be denied as a major cause of the exclusion of urban poor despite playing a critical role for the cities and its dwellers. But a bigger cause which generally goes unnoticed is non-acceptance of the urban poor groups in the larger urban society. To address this societal exclusion PRIA along with its active Settlement Improvement Committees (SICs) tried to collaborate with non-poor groups urban groups so that the process of inclusion can be instigated at some level.
The whole of this process started when the communities, specifically the people’s collectives started to realise and identify that there are several women in their own community who are victims of domestic violence and they are having tough times since they either had zero incomes sources or were dependents. To address this issueSIC from China Kothi (one of the PRIA intervened settlements) started discussing this issue in their monthly meetings and came to conclusion that some sort of skill training would help these women to be self-employed and dependent. This is how whole of this process kicked off.
Being well aware of the fact that community won’tbe able to support this on their own they approached Dr. C. P. Thakur Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) from the region to support their cause.Though he assured best possible support from his side, nothing concrete could be achieved on ground. So to speed up and instigate this further the SIC with help of its supporting CSO DEEP started the process of listing the groups (non-poor) who were active in the city, though they were several but most of them showed apathetic attitude towards collaborating with the urban poor.
After much of unsuccessful negotiation and discussion with the non-poor groups, one such non-poor group, Lions Club Patna Favourite divulged some interest in collaborating with the urban poor. To cement the process further, Dr. C.P. Thakur was approached once again whose references for the SIC acted as a catalyst to streamline this process further. In the next stage, Lions Club and the SIC group mutually agreed to setup a stitching training centre for the impoverished women group in the settlement, where women from the nearby settlement could also be trained.
At present 10 women have enrolled themselves for the training on stitching and its other intricacies to equip themselves with skills of economic values resonating with the current trends and fashions in the garment sector. Several other agencies Like BOWARD and CHARKHA have come up with their proposal for premium quality marketing of the products prepared these women at their retail outlets. It is envisaged that it may take three more months for the participants to successfully complete their training on the trade. Several issues like, cost benefit ratio, income per day and scaling –up of the process are things which will merge at a later stage but one of the positive aspects of the collaboration can be realised by the level of confidence among these women coupled with hope and vision of a better future and financial independence are already present in the atmosphere of positive change. The initiative can also be seen in the backdrop of vision of strengthening the capacity among the SIC groups and its activities. This can also be seen as an effort to connect the urban poor groups Settlement Improvement Committees (SIC) to be specific for acceptance and inclusion in the larger urban society.