Tag Archives: slum

Health checkups in slums with effort of Slum Dwellers!

by Mahesh Dhandole, PRIA

Slum Improvement Committee (SIC) organized Free Eye Check UP camp in Joint Collaboration with MGM Eye Hospital, Raipur

Since last two year, PRIA along with partner organization Chetana Child & Women Welfare society is making an effort to collectivize and strengthening the urban poor and their groups (SICs) by providing information and various platforms so that they could raise their voice in front of various authorities and stakeholders. As a result, various interfaces with govt. & other institutions are happening by SICs for improving the condition of slums in Raipur.

MGM eye hospital is one of biggest eye care hospital in Chhattisgarh state, which was established with the mission of providing most advanced eye care to all segments of the society, especially the underprivileged. During the time, PRIA had shared their initiatives with the outreach team of MGM and organized interface meeting between SICs and team of MGM in PRIA office, on 12/05/2014. Mr. Soumya Ranjan, Programme Manager of MGM had shared information about their hospital and outreach activities.  Members of SICs and MGM were discussed the various aspects of organizing free eye check-up camp in slums and fixed the scheduled for camps in different slums. It was jointly discussed, the field level mobilization will be done by SICs and team of doctors and other materials will be available by MGM hospital.

On 20/05/2014, one day free eye check camp was organized at Govt. Primary School, in Kanshiram Nagar slum of Ward no. 44 in Raipur. A five member team of doctors, lab technicians and assistants were present in the camp. Around 120 citizens did their eye screening through various processes in the camp. Slum Improvement Committee of Kanshiram Nagar actively facilitated the camp in their slum. Ex. Ward Councillor Mr. Kuber Safa also visited the camp and appreciated the effort of SIC. During the camp, 15 citizens were identified who had the critical eye disease like cornea & Anterior Segment and 35 patients of reflective diseases were identified. Out them, 5 citizens were referred to the hospital for free operation surgery. In the evening, MGM hospitals arranged the vehicle and send these 5 patients to their hospital for free operation surgery of eye. However, all the other SICs will organize free eye check-up camp in their respective slum. A next camp will be organized on 25/05/2014, in Tarun Nagar Slum of Ward no.30.         

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The Fear of Poverty

Nidhi Batra

Our upbringing has always been focused towards attainting ‘security’. Study, earn money and ‘be secure’. Most of us do manage to reach this is idea of security. But imagine living in a constant sense of fear, expectation and the unknown. Imagine living according to the whims of others. Imagine living in the hands of poverty!

Poverty is this phenomenon of ‘unknown’. You never know what you would be hit with the next moment! Recently team from PRIA went to Bandhu basti in B6 Vasant Kunj to undertake a slum mapping exercise. Before we began our work, we all were chatting and discussing the ‘fire’ that struck another nearby basti just few days ago. One of the social worker who had been actively working in the slum that caught fire was informing us about all the rehabilitation work that is going on. Interestingly he mentioned that the first to reach the slum after the accident (or maybe incident) was the Lieutenant Governor himself. This gave a lot of hope to the community and there has been a positive movement towards rehabilitation – clothes, foods, material for construction are being sent to this basti. Some ‘compensation’ by the government shall also be given.

Then the very next day one read of the possible ‘Land Mafia’ that might have resulted in this incident. A planned move by the local goons who grab vacant land in Vasant Kunj and give it on rent to the migrants to build their shanties. Now that the rebuilding exercise is on, they are back again charging ‘new rent’. For sure this is no ‘new episode’ for the slum dwellers. At some point or the other they know that they will be evicted. Either by the goons or by the government. In Bandhu basti where we were working a lady told us that the entire basti had filled forms for Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) last year and submitted Rs 100 each to the government. However there hasn’t even been a preliminary survey in this basti. According to her, RAY is just for the TVs! Nothing on ground ever happens!

What is the difference between Bandhu Basti and the slum that was burnt in Vasant Kunj? None really! In one the government has failed them and in the other the private has extorted them. Poor forever remain trapped!

But then George Bernard Shaw taught us:

You are going to let the fear of poverty govern your life and your reward will be that you will eat, but you will not live.

Are the poor in your city really living?!

The drive to empower urban poor through community led mapping

PRIA along with its partners has been working across the country to ‘Strengthen voices of civil society on urban poverty issues’. This process is facilitated by a community led mapping of urban poor settlements by the resident community itself. The aim is to empower the community with self knowledge and a platform for negotiation with the service providers. Once the community has an authentic set of data, that is even available in the public domain, the community holds the power to communicate, demand and obtain its ‘rights’ from the government.

With help of local NGOs and Settlement Improvement Committee that have been formulated in each ‘intervening’ urban poor settlement, PRIA has equipped with community with a GPS instrument, given the necessary training to operate the instrument and given regular hand holding to the community for the survey.

In Bhopal, GPS mapping has been done in five slums of Deeksha Nagar, Gautam Nagar, Om Nagar, Sanjay Nagar and Shri Ram Nagar in 2013 with assistance of local State NGO – Samarthan, Bhopal. The survey carried out beyond physically locating each slum and its physical characteristics, identifies household information including the status of water and sanitation, displacement and education in these slums. In this activity youth volunteers were identified from each slum and trained on using the GPS instrument. Then with the help of expert each household in the slum was depicted on google earth map. These maps were also shared with ward councilor and municipal community organizers, so that in future if they plan some infrastructure in these slums they may understand the situation of existing resources available in slum and their distribution in each lane of slum. The youth members that participated in mapping process are engaged in other community development work too as volunteers and in future they may take up other initiative of development in their slum also.

A similar exercise has been carried out in Bhojpura basti in Jaipur. The map can be accessed at : https://www.google.com/maps/ms?msid=206436946251815631253.0004f72622b8ebd7b01cb&msa=0&ll=26.897159,75.792537&spn=0.001457,0.002642

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Urban Poor Women and Children in Slums are Unsafe

By Shivani Singh, PRIA

Today, more than one billion people in the world live in slums. In the developing world, one out of every three people living in cities lives in a slum. The word “slum” is often used to describe informal settlements within cities that have inadequate housing and squalid, miserable living conditions. They are often overcrowded, with many people crammed into very small living spaces. These settlements lack basic municipal services such as water, sanitation, waste collection, storm drainage, street lighting, paved sidewalks and roads for emergency access. Most also do not have easy access to schools, hospitals or public places for the community to gather. Many slums have been unserviced and unrecognised for long periods, over 20 years in some cities. Like all informal settlements, housing in slums is built on land that the occupant does not have a legal claim to and without any urban planning or adherence to zoning regulations. In addition, slums are often areas where many social indicators are on a downward slide; for example, crime and unemployment are on the rise. (Cities alliance, 2014)

One of the downward slides of social indicators is seen how women and children living in slums often get victimized living in such unsafe and insecure environment. This was best narrated by Ms Purnima Gupta, a leader, social activist and change maker of Bihari Basti, New Delhi.

I met Ms Purnima Gupta Vice President of Jugghi Jhopari Ekta Manch in Gandhi Peace Foundation while attending the Media Meet on 12th February for putting forth the demands of urban informal sector workers in front of media person. She reached 15 minutes before the scheduled time. This gave me enough time to talk to her and get to know about her. Our conversation started with general introduction about each other. She was looking very enthusiastic for the meeting and kept looking at the watch. She said, “We all should come for any meeting a bit early so that the meeting starts on time.” I then realized that time is money and who knows it best than the people from informal sector.

Purnima lives in Bihari Basti (Slum) near Shastri Park Metro Station since 1985. The settlement is resided by around 2000-3000 people mostly working as vegetable sellers, rickshaw pullers, vendors, hawkers on daily basis. The ‘slum’ is inhabited in majority by both Hindus and Muslims. Like many slums it also lack basic infrastructure. Which is a cause of concern for Purnima.

When told to share about the problems they face in slums she raised the issue of women safety as something that requires immediate attention. She said, “Women in Delhi are unsafe but women slums are at greater risk.” While they are victims of domestic abuse, women also experience harassment, rape and violence outside of the home. Men go out for work but many women stay back home in Bihari Basti. They are victim of many social problems. Thus economic empowerment is important. They are not mentally prepared to go out and work. So best would be to provide them vocational trainings and home based jobs.

Ms Poornima disclosed that the situation of women and children is pitiable in slums. They are exposed to various social problems such as prostitution, drug addiction, rape, murder, theft, gambling to name a few and when we complain to the police they also support the wrong doer. She said, “we understand that education for our children and we do send them to school but in government school there are lots of other problems to which the children become prey.”

When asked what is your prioritized demand as the vice president she said “Both women and children residing in slums are not safe. Safety for both of them is our priority.” Enlisting certain demands for their slums she demanded for:

a. education for our children,

b. home based employment for women,

c. orphan home,

d. old age pension,

e. land tenure rights.

In the enlisting land rights are put at the end her first and foremost demand was safety for women and children.

Not that Ms Purnima is only advocating for change she has formed an organization named Sharda Foundation to work on the above mentioned demands. She has opened a Sewing Machine Centre for women in her Basti. She is actively filing complaints against the anti-social elements in her slums along with the other members of her foundation.

I feel that Ms Purnima is an aware citizen, she has knowledge about the place she residing, she is aware about her rights and especially those rights which are denied to them, she is a leader and advocates about the cause of other people in her area, she within her capacity is trying to make change in the lives of urban poor women of her area.

When ‘Right to Sanitation’ becomes ‘Right to Life’

By Suman Bhanoo, PRIA

We all are aware of the recent rape in Delhi where a young girl of a basti was subjected to major atrocities in the unguarded public toilet near her basti. This is by no means a stand-alone case and most of the urban poor – especially women and girls have to deal with various issues (health, security and safety, loss of dignity to name few) either due to lack of facilities or ill-equipped services in their slums bastis.

According to United Nations Human Rights, it is estimated that 2.6 billion people live without proper sanitation. Over 1.1 billion people have no sanitation facilities. On the other hand, WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) estimates that 80 percent of the world’s urban population has access to adequate sanitation, compared to only 39 percent of the rural population. However it is a known fact that the health impact of lack of access to sanitation is far worse in urban areas than in rural areas, due to higher density of population.

 Slums of Bihar, where PRIA is initiating activities for Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty, are no exception to the above situation. Besides the usual problems of slums like potable water, sewerage facility, land rights, street light, BPL card and voter card, Ketari slum of Patna is facing huge problem related to sanitation facilities.  According to the slum dwellers, many people prefer plastic bags, sewerage lines, road sides, railway tracks, nearby forest areas, behind bushes, field, streets or other places for defecation that do not provide adequate privacy, safety, dignity and hygiene.  And above all these places are not secure for girls and women. Lack of toilets affects women and girls in particular; it makes them vulnerable to rape and other forms of gender-based violence. Women and girls face threats of sexual assault when they have to walk long distances to sanitation facilities, especially at night.

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Absence of household toilets not only generate element of myriad fears but also pollutes environment and water sources. It is known that world over, millions of children are left malnourished, physically stunted and mentally disabled by excreta-related diseases. To combat   with these issues, residents of slums have formed temporary toilets near to their respective households. Now, after prolonged struggle and wait, in coming month, the slum residents going to get “six public toilets” in their slums. But main agenda is maintenance of “public toilets”. As the adjoining slum “Adalatganj Slum” is facing same issues related to maintenance. In adjacent slum toilet is in worse condition and to avail its services each time residents have to pay 3Rs/. It is a huge amount for whole family. So either they are forced to use ill maintained toilets or they have to defecate in open. Ms. Arzoo Devi from Adalatganj stated every day brings the same problem. For middle class society concept of defecation doesn’t deserve any consideration but for us this simple act of defecation takes thoughtful planning. Being a woman it is matter of dignity, health and safety.

                In June 2011, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the “Sustainable Sanitation: Five-Year Drive to 2015” a push to speed up progress on the Millennium Development Goals of improving global sanitation by 2015 and to ensure sanitation for all. Let see how far it goes….

Are ‘Slums’ Urban?

By Nidhi Singh nee Batra, Sn. Prog Officer-PRIA

Whenever I have thought of a city – I thought of it as one large urban theatre, where every actor has a role and a place, a stage which has the latent characteristics of being democratic. But in my recent visit to the slums of Raipur where PRIA is working towards strengthening voices of civil society on Urban Poverty– that image of a city has become extremely questionable.

Entering a ‘territory’ is difficult. Slums are one such ‘territory’. The moment one enters, there are all eyes that look up at you, stare at you with multiple questions and you know that you have impeached a boundary or a limit.

In ethology the term territory refers to any sociographical area that an animal of a particular species consistently defends against conspecifics (and, occasionally, animals of other species). Animals that defend territories in this way are referred to as territorial.

I have come with an architectural and urban design background where we have romanticized a city, seen it with pink glasses that even in a poverty stricken city, one finds immense beauty – and a joy of living. In all that romance, one tends to see urban- and urbanization as that in some essence blurs various boundaries. Limits of caste/religion/culture all get blurred to together form ‘an urban way of living’.

Lewis Mumford’s definition of the city says:

“The essential physical means of a city’s existence are the fixed site, the durable shelter, the permanent facilities for assembly, interchange, and storage; the essential social means are the social division of labor, which serves not merely the economic life but the cultural process. The city in its complete sense, then, is a geographic plexus, an economic organization, an institutional process, a theater of social action, and an aesthetic symbol of collective unity. The city fosters art and is art; the city creates the theater and is the theater. It is in the city, the city as theater, that man’s (sic) more purposive activities are focused, and work out, through conflicting and co-operating personalities, events, groups into more significant culminations.”

(Mumford 1937: 185)

The city with its architectural corpus is the theater in which urban life, urban drama unfolds. This urban drama continuously re-makes that architectural complexity, while creating a collectively shared understanding of the past, shared memories that become attached to particular architectural spaces. The city, with its monumentality and architectural poetics “intensifies and underlines the gestures of the actors and the action of the play” (Mumford)

But in a city of such immense soul, there are ‘territories’. What I want to question is whether this act of forming ‘territories’ really urban?! And I am here not saying that it is just the poor who have marked territories, it is also the rich- it just depends where you are an outsider and where are you a resident.

What I am internally questioning is how do we define/ rather ‘imagine’ and perceive ‘urban’? Cities have a very explicit imagery- and these images flash in your mind when you think of ‘urban’. Are enclosed territories- formed because of location, background, economic status, work profile – a feature that ‘I’ relate to as urban?

One thing is for sure, these enclaves of the urban poor, have a social order of their own – their urbanity might differ from your urbanity. And it is this very reason – distinguished urbanity- that makes ‘slums’ a contested space.

Humans probably just keep seeking order, uniformity and want the other to follow the more ‘accepted’ norm. And this is in so much contrast to our initial understanding of ‘City as a theatre’ were social drama unfolds…The fact that there are contesting urbanities – all having a role in one collective locale – is what exactly makes all these actors ‘urbane’. Even though lifestyles/ life practices may differ – it is ‘how’ to understand the ‘differences’ that is important. Most SRA/ Rehabilitation schemes fail – because they ‘fail’ to understand these ‘differences’. I was an intruder in the slums of Raipur- at least let’s not make the dwellers be intruders in their own city.