Re-wind. Recount. Reflect

The SLB Connect survey is about to launch. It is right there now, at the edge of its beginning. The team involved at PRIA and WSP is ticking off things-to-do from its checklists– phones are being prepared, enumerators shortlisted, ward plans are being finalized, letters written, collaterals printed, the documentation is nearly final, and our homework into city and service-level assessments is being concluded.

But before we launch the actual survey I want to rewind, recount and reflect on the practice survey we conducted a couple of weeks back in Jaipur.

PRIA organized the practice survey by way of field work for enumerators and supervisors to ensure that we were preparing our trainees as much as possible before they went out to conduct the actual survey in Ajmer and Jhunjhunu. This was part of a four-day workshop organized by PRIA to train enumerators and surveyors on the concepts and logistics fundamental to SLB Connect. (A quick side note on this- a BIG thanks to Anshu, Naeem and Pranav for how well they organized the entire exercise!).

Participants were divided into five groups. By design, each group had at least one member from PRIA, one from WSP (or an independent consultant collaborating with WSP on this project) and enumerators and/or supervisors. PRIA members and WSP members were present to facilitate the process.

My team was allocated a slum called the Phoos ka Bangla; after completing this we would test the survey in a non-slum area with our enumerators and surveyors.

The households in slums were keen to participate in the survey, with residents clamoring to get the surveyors’ attention. There was this unshakable belief that somehow participating in the survey would solve all their problems relating to water and sanitation. I say unshakable and mean it – this slum has been settled in the area for the past thirty years with umpteen promises for water and sewerage lines. Nothing has been done so far to deliver on these promises. And yet, this faith, this firm belief persists that if they participate in the survey then they are somehow exerting their agency to improve their situation.

One lady told us, “Main yahan saari din saari raat aapse baatcheet karungi, aap bus mere ghar mein paani and safai ka bandobast karwa do” (I’ll talk to you all night, all day, just please try and arrange for water and cleanliness in my house).

This was in spite of our informing the lady that this was a pilot survey, a practice session for what we would launch in Ajmer and Jhunjhunu later in the month. She persisted expectantly, “Theek hai, aap karo practice. Safal jab ho jayogey, hamare yahan laut aana didi” (That’s alright. Practice here now, once you are successful in doing the survey in the other cities, come back to our slum again).

We had hopeful faces looking at us, people vying for attention and opening their lives to us, leading us by the hand-

Didi look this is the pile of unwashed clothes”
Didi get water pipeline connections for us”
Didi our daughters are young but they have to defecate in the open”
There were sometimes requests for arranging for admissions for children and establish an Anganwadi in the vicinity.

The response behavior was starkly different in the non-slum areas. We were allowed to take a survey with greater reluctance. Some teams faced a couple of rejections before getting a household willing to participate.
Also we met with the disillusion we were expecting in the slum eventually in the non-slum areas. “Aisey tou koi shikayat nahi hai, but garmiyon mein do teen bari pump chalana padta hai. Poudhey sookh jaayein hai,badi dikkat hoti hai” (As such there are no major complains, but in summers, we have to switch on the pump a couple of times. Our plants dry up, it’s very inconvenient).
There is a ‘mai baap’ tendency in slums. If someone has the wherewithal to conduct such a survey, then they might also have the power to implement solutions in the near future. The distinction between ranks and files of government officials, NGO workers, researchers was not made. There was an almost direct correlation between levels of desperation and hope. Part of this arose from a confused understanding of governance and related processes. The non-slum households on the other hand had a greater sense of entitlement to services and were therefore on the brink of dissatisfaction on a continual perpetual basis.

Do plug into our FB page, the Terra Urban Blog, and check out #SLB Connect on Twitter to get updates on how our survey is progressing. Cross your fingers, wish us luck, and share and spread the word!

By Sharmila Ray, PRIA

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