Slums in India – UPSC GS1

Context
  • Rapid growth of Urban Slums in India and lack of adequate policies to tackle it.
How should India address this issue?
  • We need to collect right data as there are no concrete figures on these temporary and semi-permanent settlements.
  • Slums have a fluid definition and it leads to exclusion of people.
  • The 2011 Census estimated 65 million people in slums, a marked shortfall from the UN-HABITAT’s 2014 estimation of 104 million.
  • Current slum policies primarily focus on housing, relocation or in-situ development of multi-storey complexes, which free up swathes of prime real estate. But in doing so we miss out on the brewing socio-economic distress in slums.
  • Over 70% of families in slums live in debt.
  • The difference between their monthly earnings and expenses is less than ₹1,000 leaving them vulnerable in case of educational, vocational, social or health emergencies.
  • Moreover, with no access to formal financial systems, any borrowing comes from private money lenders at high interest rates.
  • For many, even water and electricity are disproportionately more expensive as they are forced to rely on the grey market rather than on formal, subsidised channels.
What could this lead to?
  • The cumulative effect is that residents end up staying in the same slums for an average of 21 years
  • When families did move out of their slums, it was towards “cheaper,” worse-off slums.
  • This is perhaps due to the rapidly changing profile of entry level jobs. Undergraduate or technical certificates can only provide low-paying jobs. Much like their parents, the youth earn less than their more-educated peers who don’t live in slums.
Way forward
  • A nuanced slum policy, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach is the need.
  • In many established slums, political patronage has produced concrete houses, title deeds, piped water and regularised electricity. Here, economic opportunities and employment are key.
  • On the other end, slums resembling tented refugee camps need housing and basic amenities.
  • Until these nuances are considered, ambitious but slow-to-implement housing schemes will do little for the welfare of slum dwellers.