Tag Archives: Bihar

URBAN POOR LIVE LIKE PHEONIX

by Shivani Singh, PRIA

In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. A phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.(wikipedia, 2014).Urban poor represent phoenix birdas their houses, livelihood, belongings,relationships and networks, rather their whole existence gets burnt either by residing in an unsafe place or due to powerful forces that surrounds them. Power can be of all kinds’ money, muscle, governmental orders or vested private interest. But still they continue to live and struggle.

Patna grapples with many social and economic issues. Urbanization is happening but at snail’s pace. The urban poor and urban slums of Patna are no different than other urban poor and slums of Kolkata, Jaipur, and Bhubaneswar which I got to visit this year. The problem of land, water, sanitation, education, health, and security remains common phenomenon everywhere.

I met the newly formed Slum Improvement Committee (SIC) Federation’s core committee members who will work for the development of their respective slums and engage in demanding various rights from the government. The core committee is democratically elected body by the SIC members in the PRIA intervened slums. The SIC members narrated the problems encompassing their slums and how SIC formation led to bringing in improvement in their community.

Ram Dheeraj Prasad, 62
“My basti was set on fire four times. Where should I go? I do not have any house. When I go to meet the government officials they call me ‘ganda aadmi’ and say, ‘kaun bulaya tumko, chal bhag yaha se’.
Despite of being rejected ad humiliated many times by the authority he still has the willingness to fight for basic rights for the slum he lives in with his grandchildren.

Bacchi Devi, 27
“There is a sewage treatment plant near our ‘basti’ when there is power cut the sewage plant overflows and our basti gets filled with filth. We can’t enter our slums. Our house gets flooded with filth and the livestock, our belongings flows away with it. It’s a regular phenomenon. Again we build our houses and live there. No other place to go.”

Munna Kumar, Sandalpur, age 27
I don’t have much earnings. My basti has been set on fire many times. It costs Rs. 10,000 to construct a kuccha house in slum. It’s difficult for us to every time build a new house. Government should resettle us in same place we live.
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Sagar Ram, Dhobi Ghat, age 65
Our slum doesn’t have basic amenities. Eviction is our greatest fear. I legally own the land, yet it was encroach by few powerful people. Being powerless I tried to mobilize the community and together with their help and contribution we built a primary school. But as the school land is near a pond which get over flooded during winter seasons this hampers the studies.

Sharda Devi, Adalat Gunj, age 55
“There is no water facility in basti. A hand pump was installed with the help of an NGO (Water Aid). There is no school or crèche for children in slum.”

Rita Devi, Vetinari Campus, age 30
“My basti doesn’t have proper waste disposal system. There is no water, no electricity. The only insecurity is getting evicted from the place we have been living since long.”

Sanjay Kumar, Hima Nagar Ward 34, age 40
“I have been living in ward 34 for past 30-40 years. There is no water, no toilet, no drainage in our basti. There are many governmental schemes but they are least accessed by the poor.
We are associated with Dalit Vikas Samiti and PRIA and have formed a SIC that works for the betterment of community. We collected Rs. 25000/- from the community by taking a donation of Rs. 100 from each household and installed a 400 feet pipeline and a motor. This collective effort helped us in bringing in water in our basti. It’s because we collectivized we were able to think about how to solve the problem. The SIC also played an important role in putting pressure on the municipal commissioner to install a handpump in their basti.”

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Ajay Kumar Malik, 34, Kankarbagh
“I also belong to basti that doesn’t have any basic amenities. I do manual scavenging and earn Rs 4000/-. The government claims that scavenging is abolished hence doesn’t exist but the same is false as in my basti itself there are 200 youths that are involved in manual scavenging. We get Rs 100 as wage for cleaning the gutter whole day! I worked in municipality for 3-4 years. Now that the work of sewage cleaning is contracted out I work on private basis.”

The above narrations of problems faced by the urban poor who are now part of SIC federation showcases a known picture of any slum. Eviction is the biggest insecurity with which the urban poor grapple. When asked from the SIC members what is the first thing you demand? They all answered unanimously that “we want land rights rest all can only come after we assume land rights. ‘Jaha hum rahe rahe hai hume vahi basaya jaaye’(rehabilitate us where we are living now).

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Towards ‘Inclusive cities’ with poor and non-poor- Bihar

A city needs to be developed at social, economic and aesthetic levels. Ideally in a developed city the poor,non-poor and government should work in tandem. However, in India, poor are left out in the planning process, the non-poor do not act and government is shackled in its own bureaucratic structure.

To address this felt problem and need as expressed by the poor and non-poor a multi-stakeholder dialogue was organized by PRIA Bihar on 15th September 2014 in SBC Hall, Patna. The objectives of the consultation were:
1. To sensitize the people on common problems faced by urban poor, non-poor and government,
2. To provide a platform for interface and dialogue between the poor, non-poor and government

The consultation saw enthusiastic participation from various stakeholders such as Mr. Samrat Choudhary, Ms. Pinki Kumari, Ward 21, Counsellor, Minster for Urban Development, Govt. of Bihar, Amrita Bhushan, President Patna Favorite Lion’s Club, Govind Kumar Bansal, BJP former Chairperson, Jhuggi Jhopari Manch, Dr. C. P Tahkur, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, Gazaffar Nawab, Member, AITUC Patna, Mr. Johagar, Mr. Ranjan Sinha, Chief Functionary, Nidan, Mr. Nikhal Ranjan, WASH, Mr. Vishwa Ranjan, PPP Expert, Plan India, the community members and PRIA and its partner NGO.

Mr. Choudhary and Ms. Pinki, representing the service providers of the city and the State, gave an insight on the ground realities. Mr. Choudhary, a futuristic and visionary officer, has the hope that Patna should one day be compared to Sweden which re-uses 90% of its waste. He highlighted that we need to focus on four aspects in Bihar:
• Political Democracy
• Efficient Bureaucracy
• City Planning
• Single window clearing system

Mr. Ranjan Sinha of NIDAN, discussed at length the fate of various programmes and schemes for urban poor in Bihar such as the un-successful JnNURM and RAY. Land allotment to slum dwellers was and is a major issue in the state and the city. It is obvious that the voices of the poor are not being recognized fully in the current planning and policy environment. However, there have been some initiates such as the pioneering slum policy, vendor policy and upcoming builders act which are positive ray of hope in including the poor. He stressed on the need to have many more of these initiatives to integrate the poor and non-poor in developing an inclusive city.

The ground reality and issues of the urban poor and unrecognized informal workers was raised by many speakers including Bansalji, Nawabji, Johagarji. Other speakers and participants also highlighted how the need of the hour is to concentrate on schemes for water, sanitation, housing and employment for the poor.

The community members also raised many of their concerns such as:
Prakash stated: “Settlement improvement committee has been formed in our slum settlement. We all got collectivized and even mapped our area. However, the maps that we uploaded are not being recognized by the government. The government says that schemes like Rajiv Awas Yojana are not redundant. But they haven’t given us any alternative!’

Shankar Dev Mehato articulated that ‘traditionally the work of cleaning toilets is done by Mehtar caste in Bihar. Today people from other castes are doing this work. We do not have work which is why we are not able to educate our children. Other caste people are given jobs by the government. Today the work done by us is taken over by others. We are not able to do traditional work. We are deprived of our traditional work. The government deprived us of government job. Today in the government we have people from upper class also cleaning the toilets mainly due to corruption. The poor should be asked about the poverty not the rich’

The dialogue led to an exhaustive discussion and concluded with few recommendations for ‘inclusive city building’. Some of these are as follows:

From Poor:
• Availability of basic amenities in slums, water and sanitation facilities as priority needs
• Eviction shared as huge cause of concern and source of insecurity by poor
• Generate avenues of gainful employment in the city for urban poor

From Non-Poor:
• More initiatives from non-poor to be taken up to work for and with poor
• Micro-financing for urban poor to start their own small scale businesses
• Right to land as the basic rights for poor, other needs as house, employment, water, and sanitation will come into picture once the land is allotted to poor in their name
• Computer Literacy Programs for urban poor
• Evaluation of schemes that failed to achieve their objectives like RAY, JNNURUM, slum development programs etc.
• Awareness programme on newly emerged concepts like ‘smart city’
• Conducting survey and researches on issues of urban poverty and urban governance. PRIA conducted a path breaking study to find economic contribution of urban poor has dissolved many myths such as poor spend majority of money on liquor. Instead they spend majority of their income on food.

From Government:
• Need to develop a skilled labour force
• Training need to be identified by the NGOs and logical plans needs to be prepared
• Political Democracy, Efficient Bureaucracy, City Planning and Single Window clearance shared as pillars to achieve city development objective.

Pre-Election Political Awareness Campaign (PEPAC) -a national campaign to put urban on nation’s political agenda

Source: PRIA

The soul of India lives in its villages, said Gandhi Ji in the very beginning of twentieth century. So, rightly independent India embarked upon planned, ambitious and modestly successful rural development and rural governance initiatives. Indian political parties and national policy makers emphasized on need to bring positive changes in rural India.  But India has changed over the time. The India of twenty -first century is significantly urban and if the trends from Census 2011 and other contemporary population projection are indicators, India would be majority urban around 2030-2040.

But it seems our politicians and policy makers knowingly or unknowingly ignore urbanization trends and urban problems. The faster growth in urban is not limited to economy and geography of cities only. For the first in Indian Census history, absolute increase in urban Indian population was more than rural Indian population in Census 2011. The infrastructures and governance of our cities have not been able to adapt to growing population and its needs in the cities. Urban planning is at best no planning- a free for all in theory but land mafia-politician-bureaucrat nexus driven in practice. City authorities don’t have basic updated data about demography and geography of city. Urban departments lack appropriate capacities to handle urban issues. Capacity needs (skill-sets) and aspirations of individuals in cities are different from their counterparts in rural areas. But Indian bureaucracy is predominately trained for rural development and rural ethos. So, our bureaucrats find heterogeneity and informalities in urban areas beyond their appreciation and understanding.

Separate Section on Urban in Political Manifestos of                                             National and State Ruling Political Parties

National Party Yes/No Ruling Party

(State)

Yes/No Ruling Party

(State

Yes/No
BSP No AAP- Delhi Yes J&KNC – J&K No
BJP Yes AIIDMK – Tamil Nadu No NPF – Nagaland No
CPI No AINRC- Pondicherry No SAD – Punjab No
CPI (M) No ATC- W.B. No SDF- Sikkim Yes
INC Yes BJD – Odisha No SP – U.P. No
NCP No JD(U) – Bihar No

Source: Information from Copies of Manifestos for 2009 Lok Sabha Election

It is in the interest of not only cities but country as whole that political leaders and policy makers should provide due priorities to Urban by coming up with clear-cut vision and action plans for bringing better changes in lives in the cities. So, ‘urban is due’ in political manifestos and national polices! 

As a part of its Pre- Election Political Awareness Campaign (PEPAC) for urban governance and urban poverty PRIA along with partner organization organized a Commisionerate level consultation on 21st February 2014 at Gandhi Ashram, Gaya Bihar. The consultation witnessed a participation of representatives from various political parties’ viz. BJP, RJD, AAP, JD(U) ,  Anushuchit Jati Morcha along with elected representatives from Urban Local Bodies, representatives from CSOs, Academia, SIC members and representatives from media houses. The discussion and deliberation during the consultation revolved around the initiatives being taken by the political parties in their manifestos for highlighting and addressing the issues of urban poverty and urban governance for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

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Here is a news clipping of the event:

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Voice of the urban poor – Chhapra

PRIA-Bihar

The urban poor community of Chhapra recently experienced a new strategy to raise their voice and defend their rights: the 10thof April 2013, slum-dwellers from ten localities had a public meeting directly on the pavement, in front one of the most emblematic landmarks of the city, ‘Municipal Chowk’. Meant to raise the attention of the media and other city-dwellers, this public event also presented them an occasion to submit a memorandum to the Chhapra Municipal Council and DM’s Office. The memorandum comprised a list of seven official demands aiming to fulfil the entitlements of slum-dwellers. Demands for the delivery of BPL cards, widow pensions, and proper water distribution were for instance formulated.

Even though it is too early to declare this operation as successful – the municipality has shown a positive response and has assured to extend all possible support to address the issues, as soon as possible.

Read the clipping below:

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The broom-makers who could not get their neighbourhood cleaned: a metaphor of urban poverty in Muzzafarpur

By Abhishek Jha & Hugo Ribadeau Dumas, PRIA

a1At first sight, Aghoray Bazar does not appear as a particularly outstanding place. Located in the heart of Muzzafarpur, the neighbourhood looks from outside just as any other Indian slum. The community lives in shabby dwellings, public services are very scarce (1 water tap is available for 800 inhabitants), and economic perspectives are desperately narrow. Most strikingly, the slum is pathetically dirty. A carpet of rubbish covers the lanes, and the lack of maintenance makes the air genuinely unhygienic. Apart from its negative impact on the visual aspect of the neighbourhood, this dirtiness represents a real sanitary challenge, especially for physically weaker citizens. Clearly, the sight of Aghoray Bazar is not rejoicing. But one could argue that, unfortunately, such situation remains relatively banal in 2013 Indian cities.

In reality, however, despite the apparent lack of originality of this story, Aghoray Bazar constitutes a powerful metaphor of urban poverty in India. The portrait of the slum would be incomplete without mentioning the main survival strategy of the local community, which is sadly and acidly ironical.  In the sea of dirtiness of the neighbourhood, the inhabitants have indeed specialized themselves in the fabrication of brooms. Aghoray Bazar’s brooms, made out of inexpensive coconut fibres, are cheap and get exported all across India. The slum hence indirectly participates, whatever microscopically, in maintaining the nation clean. But, cruelly, the tight claws of poverty make them incapable to get rid of the dirt in their own locality.

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In Aghoray Bazar, broom-crafting is a community as well as a family business. The quasi totality of the population earns its life by fabricating brooms and all the members of the family usually take part in the activity. Woman clean and single out the coconut fibres, children tie them with wood, and the men then go to the market to sell the finished product. Few children of the neighbourhood get the occasion to go to school, as their small hands are crucial for the business to go on. The brooms are then sent all over India by private contractors. Slum-dwellers sell each broom for Rs. 2. Households usually manage to fabricate approximately 50 to 60 of them each day. The average wage is thus about Rs. 100-120 a day per family. It should also be underlined that various males of the neighbourhood have been hired by the municipality as sweepers, and therefore get paid to clean the streets of Muzzafarpur.

Still, despite the skills developed by some inhabitants as sweepers, and despite the easy access to cleaning tools, Aghoray Bazar’s streets remain invariably squalid. The scarcity of free-time due to hard labour (after all, we do not ask middle-classes to clean-up the streets of their neighbourhood), the absence of supportive external agency (and especially of the State) and the absence of structured community mobilization may explain why till today no solution has been found to offer a healthier environment to Aghoray Bazar.

The tale of Aghoray Bazar, the broom-making slum who could not get cleaned, constitutes a real-life metaphor of urban poverty today in India. It is the story of a slum serving the rest of the society, by fabricating products of basic uses for us, but incapable of helping itself. It echoes the fate of all these destitute neighbourhoods full of servants, guards, drivers – hence full of those who make our cities work – and who remain marginalized due to a strictly limited access to basic services.

Aghoray Bazar’s tale is also the story of a community fitted with a genuine potential but incapable to capitalize on it. The dirtiness of the broom-maker slum symbolizes the difficulties of the urban poor to organize themselves in order to take the best out of their strengths. We should be here careful to avoid normative judgements. We are not trying to argue that slum dwellers are to be solely blamed; the lack of State support seems equally, if not more, responsible of the bad hygienic conditions of the neighbourhood. Instead, our point here is to show that making citizens aware of their capacities and offering them the possibility to coordinate could constitute a good opportunity of development for the locality.

To reverse the situation in Aghoray Bazar, no magic recipe seems to exist. Nobody can promise that the jhadoo (“brooms” in Hindi) will be turned into jadoo sticks (“magic sticks”). However, it is highly probable that community mobilization could help slum dwellers to become aware of their potential as a group. It might take time, and even engender local resistance. But, in certain cases, it will eventually help to sweep, little by little, poverty away.

The authors of this article can be contacted here: hugo.ribadeaudumas@sciences-po.org; abhishek.jha@pria.org  

Involvement in PEVAC! Prepare yourself about administrative formalities

By Amitabh Bhushan-Snr Programme Officer-PRIA Bihar

The state of Bihar is to witness third municipal elections on 17th and 22nd May 2012. PRIA and Nagar Samaj Manch (state level collaboration of CSOs) are working on Pre-Election Voters’ Awareness Campaign (PEVAC), with the objective of sensitizing citizens to exercise their right to vote (aimed at increasing the percentage of voting which has been low in previous elections), formally launched with a state level consultation which was held on 05th April in Patna.

With the view to collaborate with State Election Commission (SEC) of Bihar, preliminary meetings and sharing of processes/developments are being done on regular intervals since April 2012.  It was soon realized that the voters lack adequate information about the perspective of their candidates on development of their wards and developmental issues within the cities.

PRIA and Nagar Samaj Manch decided to organize ‘Know your candidate’ Program in four wards of Patna (4, 8, 7 and 22) with the objective of an interface between voters and candidates, which will serve as an opportunity for voters to understand the perspectives of the candidates around developmental challenges and to discuss on strategy of the contesting candidates to address these challenges for overall development of the wards. Even the SEC, Bihar realizing this gap between voters and candidates have launched a program of ‘Know Your Candidate’, asking the district administration to display details of  candidates at prescribed public places to generate awareness among voters.

PRIA submitted a formal request letter to SEC on 7th April 2012 seeking permission to organize ‘Know your Candidate’ program and tried to meet the officials for the same. But as various meeting of district administration with SEC were prescheduled, representative of PRIA were informed that the officials were busy and unavailable to meet.

On the very next day SEC officials called up PRIA State office and asked the PRIA Staff to meet them and explain about the objectives of the events and what PRIA had been doing in the past on the Urban Context. A panel of four representatives from PRIA and Nagar Samaj Manch met the concerned Officials and explained them about the objectives of the programs and association of PRIA with Urban and rural PEVAC in Bihar. The official screened the previous documents of PRIA related with rural PEVAC 2011, CDP, issue papers of different cities. He then explained about the guidelines for organizing the events and finally agreed to issue the permission for the events.

In the evening when PRIA representatives approached SEC for the consent letter he had to sit up to 9:00 pm at SEC office but the letter was not provided. However the letter of permission was provided the next day with a condition to obtain permission for the same from the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) for organizing the event. A letter in the context was submitted to the SDO – Law and Order, Patna on 10th May and the permission for the same is still awaited.

In this process, we remain hopeful of getting the permission, but the issue which needs to be debated is; ‘Who is responsible for sensitizing the voters? How can we mobilize citizen’s to exercise their votes in Municipal elections in such a situation where the key agency as SEC, which even after realizing the need for sensitizing the voters, is hiding away from their responsibilities by just asking district administration to come up with display of details of candidates which is not being addressed adequately.

On the contrary when voluntarily civil society organizations are coming forward to address such issues, instead of supporting their initiatives to sensitize voters, they are being questioned on the legitimacy of their past interventions and their commitments. Even after being furnished with relevant documents, the key agency told us to get permission letter from SDO’s office. As elections are approaching, the time is being wasted in the name of bureaucratic obligations and procedures when this time should be utilized in sensitizing the voters so that the voters’ turn out improve in these elections. Such attitude of SEC will only dissuade the organizations and potential groups trying their best to conduct Pre Elections Voters’ Awareness Campaign.

Agnipariksha..

Slum Memoir by Swati Sharma, Programme Officer -PRIA

This excerpt was written during a research study conducted under Ford Foundation Funded project of PRIA ‘Democratic Urban Governance: Promoting Participation and Social Accountability”.

Date: Aug 17, 2011

Type of Slum: Notified

Ward No. – 21

Total No. of households: 1000+

No. of years since formed: 70 – 80 yrs

Kamla Nehru Slum is one of the largest slums in Patna. High degree of diversity vis-à-vis community groupings and caste is present in this slum and approx. 8000 people reside here. People from various districts of Bihar constitute the population of this slum. The residents belong to scheduled castes in which approx. 95% are Hindus and 5% are Muslims. There is majority of Dusadh community, followed by Musahar families, Gujarati families, Bakho community families and Dalit Muslims in the slum. Major professions of slum occupants are Cart pulling, Construction work, street vending, daily wage labour, rag picking, utensil sellers, and maid servants.

 

At the entrance to the slum, one witness’s huge piles of garbage and the by lane was full of trash mixed and muddy making it almost impossible to cross for the denizens. The environment was filled with a pungent odour which was hard to tolerate. Noticing such abysmal hygiene conditions in slums, one often feels that either the slum dwellers have accepted these grave issues (SWM being directly related to the overall health and environment) as part of their lives or they have tried everything they could but the problem persists.

 There is a primary school located in the slum which has five rooms marked Class I to Class V. The so called school had 110 students from which 70% were boys. For these 5 classes and 110 students only 2 teachers were there. Both of them shared that they were teaching these poor children voluntarily and without any honorarium. The school did not have any toilets for the children. According to the slum dwellers, their main concerns were sanitation, solid waste management, water supply, electricity and education in the order of priority. Surprisingly the slum dwellers did not have the requisite residential proofs to apply for legitimate water and electricity connections, despite being 70 – 80 years old. Soon it became clear why the slum dwellers did not have their residential proofs even after staying for so long in the slum.

 

The slum is positioned in the centre of the main city and occupies a large area. The land on which Kamla Nehru slum is located is exorbitantly expensive and much in demand by private developers and many government departments are also eyeing it for their own purposes. The residents shared that they have experienced several incidents of fire and sometimes they all knew that the slum had been intentionally set on fire for evicting them from this land. The first incident of fire happened in the year 1992. The fire caused severe injuries and burns to a number of people. After 1992 another incident of fire took place in 1994. This fire incident was worse as all the houses in the slum came into its impact. The fire trucks could not reach inside the slum on time due to congested by lanes. Everything that the slum dwellers had was burnt to debris. Few children also died during that incident. All the slum dwellers were rendered homeless after this fire. The government did provide help to the affected families, but as usual the help came after many months of the incident and the destitute slum dwellers survived without a roof on their heads for months. The denizens of Kamla Nehru Nagar were living in the constant fear of fire as they had experienced the harshest side of life after these incidents. Soon as they were about to recover from the trauma of the fire incident, hell broke loose again when a fire gutted 90% of the slum dwellings in 1997. Many men, women and children were severely injured in this incident. After this incident people have been trying to get residence proofs but most of them did not have enough resources to bribe the authorities to apply for water connections and electricity connections. Though many of them did not have any residence proof except their Voter Id cards as the most known purpose the slums serve, is their utility of being a vote bank. The politicians are well aware that slum populations are high on vulnerability scale and can be convinced for very little in return of their voting power. Unfortunately, Kamla Nehru is not the only slum in Patna which has been through this misery. Other slums like Adalatganj, Kaushal Nagar and Dusadhi Pakri have similar stories to narrate. In a similar incident, on March 17, 2012, a massive fire destroyed over 30

Fire destroys many dwellings in Adalatganj slum (Patna) huts, destroying everything and rendering several people homeless in Adalatganj slum.

“Sita ji also had to give Agni Pariksha once. We have been giving Agnipariksha’s since we started living in this slum and we don’t know how much more Agni Pariksha’s we will have to go through to finally live in this city without the fear of fire or evictions”

Deepak Paswan, resident of Kamla Nehru Nagar

 Incidents of slum fires are not always by accidents, there have been many instances where  rather than affording the expenses of courts procedures or enduring a long wait for an official demolition order, landlords and developers started fire on purpose. Manila has a notorious reputation for suspicious slum fires; there were eight major burnings between February and April 1993 (Jeremy Seabrook, cited by Davis). Erhard Berner recalls the method of “hot demolition”, as the Filipino landlords’ favourite one: a kerosene drenched burning live rat or cat –not dogs, they die too fast- is pushed into the annoying settlement; a fire started this way is very hard to fight as the unlucky animal can set plenty of shanties aflame before it dies.

“After the fire incident, we had lost everything. The authorities refused to help us at all and even blamed us for the fire. They were of the belief that we set the slum on fire, so that we can get compensation from the government. Many people got burns and injuries in that fire. What makes them think that we will hurt ourselves and our children by doing this?”

Promila Khatoon, resident of Kamla Nehru Slum who survived 1997 fire

As for Kamla Nehru slum, the occupants have tuned themselves to the unforgiving veracity they live with every day. In the absence of basic services, people manage to sustain by fetching water from hand pumps after long queues of waiting, with no sanitation facilities in place; people defecate in open, the garbage on the lanes is a usual sight for them and the foul smell has well been recognised by their body systems. While living in a congested setting, the incidents of fire are hard to avoid, but the authorities need to be pro-active to react with a system in place for combating the fire. If huge fire trucks cannot go within the slum then an alternative strategy (for e.g. small fire fighting vehicles) should be in place. In several places, slum dwellers are now being sensitized about safety measures in case of fire. For e.g. in Tamil Nadu, the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services (TNFSR) acts in close co-ordination with Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board, particularly in the area of Fire Prevention. The Community Development Wing of the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board takes up propagation of Fire Safety measures in the slums with the help of NGOs with whom the Board has close links.  During fire prone seasons like summer or festivals like Deepavali, etc. these organisations with the help of the Slum Clearance Board and the TNFSR take up propaganda activities in slums and teach the inmates about the tips on fire safety so that the fire accidents do not take place.  Government of Tamil Nadu, through the Slum Clearance Board, also replaces the huts in the slums with fire proof dwellings. Though whatsoever has been lost in fire cannot be retrieved, but the authorities can make a difference by proving a helping hand with cooperation and assistance to the affected masses.