Identity, Equality and Social Security for Urban Poor
by PRIA and FIUPW
Urbanization has become a common feature of Indian society. Speedily changing situation of urban area is the matter of concern and attention.
As per 2011 Census;
- Urban population in India is 377 million and urban poor population is 97 million.
- The rate of urbanization in the country increased from 27.81% in census to 31.6% in census 2011.
- Out of 121 crore Indians, 83.3 crore live in rural areas while 37.7 crore stay in urban area.
- By 2026, 40% of population will live in urban areas.
According to Economic Survey of 2013, the contribution of service sector (including construction) to GDP of India is about 65% and India’s service sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in world. The service sector comprises of people mainly from informal sector such as the rickshaw puller, domestic workers, construction workers, home-based workers, vendors, hawkers etc.
As per Planning commission of India, cities contribute to 63% of country’s GDP
A recent national study by PRIA in 50 major cities of India estimates that these urban poor do contribute more than 7.56% to urban GDP of India, as per national accounts calculations.
As the rate of urbanization is increasing so is the rate of urban poor in cities. Urban poor live with multiple deprivations. Their daily challenges include; limited access to employment opportunities and income, inadequate and insecure housing and services, violent and unhealthy environments, little or no social protection mechanisms, and limited access to adequate health and education opportunities. This calls for immediate attention from the political parties and policy makers to strive for their betterment and wellbeing as the contribution of urban poor cannot be disregarded.
The political strength of urban population cannot be ignored. Urban voter’s percentage is significantly high. According to Google India Survey 94% of urban voters would vote in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In the upcoming Lok Sabha election 2014 urban poor will play a decisive role in shaping the destiny of any political party contesting in their constituency.
Brief Look on Political Parties Take on Urban Issues:The following analysis provides an objective viewpoint on which national parties have incorporated the urban poor issues in 2009 Lok Sabha elections:
|S.No.||List of National Parties||Has it Considered Any Urban Issue Separately||Urban Poor Issues Raised|
|Bahujan Samajwadi Party||No||–|
|Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)||Yes||Urban housing and urban services|
|Communist Party of India (CPI)||No||–|
|Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI (M)||No||–|
|Indian National Congress (INC)||Yes||Urban homeless issue|
|Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)||No||–|
Sources: Individual Parties’Website and Manifesto
|S.No.||State Name||List of Ruling State Parties||Has it Considered Any Urban Issue Separately||Urban Poor Issues Raised|
|1||Bihar||J D (U)||Yes||increased urban resources and livelihood opportunities|
|Jammu and Kashmir||J&KNC||NA||–|
|Sikkim||SDF||Yes||Housing to landless urban Sikkimese and urban services|
Sources: Individual Parties’Website and Manifesto
On the basis of previous Lok Sabha election manifesto it is evident that political parties have least consideration for urban sector. Only two national and two regional parties have included urban issues in their manifesto. In Delhi Assembly Elections only Aam Admi Party had included urban housing and urban services in their manifesto. It is an irony that voting percentage in slum areas is highest in most of cities but the slum related issues remain politically and administrative neglected.Urban poor struggle with many issues such as: lack of identity in the eyes of governments, distorted identities in society, lack of employment opportunities, informality of work, inadequate and insecure housing, unhealthy and inhuman environment, lack of social security, limited access to health services, and limited education opportunities. India is the largest democracy in the world and politics is a platform for positive societal transformation. Almost one-third of population of an average city lives in slums and other poor pockets. Due to multi-dimensional issues associated to the urban poverty, urban poor face vulnerability in cities and towns. There is a sheer need to address occupational, social and housing demands of urban poor in a comprehensive and integrated manner so that definite impact can be made at ground level.
No doubt there are many schemes and services for urban poor, but due to lack of implementation largely because of stiff criteria for selecting beneficiaries these schemes don’t serve their purpose. Taking into account the economic and political strength of urban poor a comprehensive list of demands has been prepared by Forum of Informal Urban Poor Workers (FIUPW) for the upcoming Lok Sabha Election 2014. The forum was established on 2013 and it works for the rights of urban poor, informal settlers and marginalized section of society.
Basic Minimum Needs:
Provision of Identity Cards: Indian citizen’s living in a place and for working in same or other place should get central government recognized certificate in support of her/his identity and the address. Informal workers often face constant harassment from local police and municipal authorities due to this identity (card) problem. Poor are not eligible for receiving services if they don’t have relevant identity proof. So, there must be provision of providing identity cards to the informal settlers. For example domestic workers should be given government ID proof that is recognized all over the country so that they get their benefits when they retire or change the job. Same is applicable to waste collectors, hawkers, construction workers, vendors and other such informal workers. Similarly, children of urban poor workers have a right to identity in order to avail various services provided by the central government. Therefore, children of urban poor workers may be provided birth registration certificates.
Livelihood and Social Security: Informal workers and/or slum dwellers are citizens of India and so, have constitutional rights for social and life securities. Thus central government must provide them social security in terms of employment opportunities, decent working condition, safety, and security at work places and also at habitation levels. There should be provision for employment guarantee, non-employment allowance, pension, monsoon/drought allowance, child care, and accidental relief to all vulnerable sections. For providing social security there should be involvement of NGOs staff also in the informal sector. Social Security provisions should not be only be for the urban poor but should be extended to NGO personnel even.Central monitoring task force must be constituted by the Government of India to implement The Hawkers Act. A special Hawkers Board should be constituted to provide social security schemes to hawkers. Hawkers should not only be included in Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY); they should be included under Employees’ State Insurance (ESI).
For retails workers:
- A wage board should be constituted for Retail workers
- An employer contribution trust fund should be constituted, which would provide financial support and assistance to retail workers
- A commitment by retailers to only engage construction companies whose workers are registered with the Construction Workers Welfare Board
- A commitment by retailers to only source goods from responsible suppliers and manufacturers
- A commitment by retailers to only engage responsible transport companies
- A commitment by retailers to freedom of association, the right to organise and collective bargaining
- Constituting a central monitoring authority for the retail sector and supply chain.
Housing Facilities: Urban homeless persons who live without shelter are the most helpless class, despite the fact they contribute towards sustaining cities with their cheap labour. As one fifth of the urban populations live in non pukka houses. One third of the urban household (120 million people) in the big cities of India live in single room houses, with 3% having no room to them. Also, 19% of them have no latrine facilities inside their houses. According to 2011 census only 70.6% of urban population is covered by individual water connection and about 13% of urban population defecates in the open, about 37% are connected by open drains and 18% are not connected at all.
As per United Nation’s –The Universal Declaration of Human Rights; everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.Housing should be provided to all hawkers under Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).A central board should be constituted to monitor the functioning of all homeless shelters. Systematic and accountable efforts must be taken to improve the functioning of temporary shelters to make them habitable, including providing electricity, fans, drinking water, toilets and basic healthcare. There is a need of proper policy intervention to address the challenges faced by homeless people with regard to shelter social housing and social protection.
Education: As we all know India joined a group of few countries in the world, with a historic law making education a fundamental right of every child coming into force. Making elementary education an entitlement for children in the 6–14 age groups, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act will directly benefit children who do not go to school at present.There should also be provision for crèches for children between the age group of 0-6 years.Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that every child of the age of six to fourteen years shall complete his/her elementary education in a neighborhood school. Special provisions for children of urban poor workers for not admitted to, or who have not completed, elementary education should be made in terms of special training, transfer to other schools in case of displacement from one work place to another, no denial of admission, relaxation in proof of age for admission etc. Privatization of government schools need to check and proper mechanism should be in place to prohibit such process of privatization.
Some Possible Ways to Address the Needs
Proactive Legislative Actions: There should be re-implementation of National Urban Transport Bill-2006.
The labour laws and the welfare need to be extended to informal sector also. There is a need to constitute central monitoring task force to implement The Street Vendors policy (2009) as directed by the Honorable Supreme Court of India on 9th Sept. A central legislation that makes it mandatory for state and local governments to guarantee livelihood and social security, space and welfare services to waste collectors, hawkers, rickshaw pullers and other informal sectors should be immediately enacted.Government should constitute unorganised worker’s policies and there should be provision of unorganised labour specific law. Besides that Unorganised Workers Social Security Act- 2008 needs a push. Retail giants should be required to recognize unions and bargain collectively and separate National Wage board should be established for workers in the retail trade services.There should be provision of transparent legislative and executive decision making process with equal access for urban poor.
Institutional Reform: There should be separate budget allotment for urban poor. Independent boards comprising representatives of informal sectors and informal settlers should be constituted at central level to ensure timely enactment and implementation of appropriate policies and programmes for urban poor. The Sectoral Tripartite Boards Constituted under the Building & Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 and the relater Cess Act of 1996 will be given an independent status like Employees State Insurance Corporation and Provident Fund Boards with a target of registering 90% construction workers as beneficiaries within next three years. The process of delivering all benefits will be standardized immediately. The model of tripartite boards to provide social security will be replicated in rest of the unorganized sectors such as domestic workers, transport workers and industrial area workers etc. In 74th Amendment ward level decentralization is present but to know about the issue of urban poor further decentralization is required. As the officials in municipalities are not accessible to the common people.A central Act on Lobbying which defines lobbying in statutory form and have a code of ethics/accreditation/certification/voluntary registration for lobbyists.
Government of India. 2011. Census of India 2011, Rural Urban Distribution of Population. New Delhi: Ministry of Home Affairs. Available online at:
PRIA, 2013.Contribution of Urban Informal Settlement Dwellers to Urban Economy in India, New Delhi.
The World Bank. (2014). Urban Development. Retrieved from Urban Poverty and Slum Upgrdation. Available on at: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTURBANDEVELOPMENT/EXTURBANPOVERTY/0,,contentMDK:20227679~menuPK:473804~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:341325,00.html
Ghosh, J and Chandrasekhar, C.P. 2013. The Changing Face of Urban Poverty in The Hindu, Business Line, Online Edition, Available online at: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/c-p-chandrasekhar/the-changing-face-of-urban-poverty/article4379020.ece