Topic: Urbanization and Issues.
Qn. Why do you think urban slums proliferate in India ? Assess the approach of Indian Government to tackle the urban problems in India ? (250 words)
Why this Question ?
The question has been framed in the background of the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi’s statement in the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in which he had called for a change in the mindset that dominates planning towards urban development.
The first part of the question needs to bring out the reasons for slum proliferation in India
The second part of the Question is an assessment of the different programs that the Indian Government has developed to tackle different urban problems.
Since it is a 250 word answer, an apt introduction to the question could be to the length of about 40-50 words.
The introduction can bring out in totality the different problems faced by urban areas in India with an emphasis on the reality of slums in India.Any statistics related to the prevalance of slums can be pointed out in the introduction itself since the answer needs to delve into the reasons for slum proliferation.
The introduction for the question could be:
“Urban development in India has never been an inclusive process. The haphazard manner in which cities have developed makes the presence of slums a reality. 1 out of every 4 persons in Urban areas reside in slums. This is because of various reasons such as the absence of affordable housing, easy access to transportation facilities and the interdepednence slum residents have cultivated amongst themselves due to the absence of robust social support and security mechanisms.
Reasons for Slum proliferation in India:-
1. Absence of affordable Housing
Skyrocketing price of land and real estate in cities prevents the rural poor who migrate to urban areas to have a decent living space for themselves.
2. Livelihood concerns
Slum dwellers being the main source of cheap labour supply to the urban residents as a part of their daily lives. Domestic help, security personnel and housekeeping labour need to reside close to the place of their occupation.
3. Lack of effective means of mass transportation.
Last mile connectivity remains absent while metro rail and sub urban railway do connect different parts of the cities. This last mile connectivity issue prevents the rural migrants to settle in the outskirts and commute on daily basis to the place of their work.
4. Basic amenities not planned in the outskirts
Uninterrupted electricity and drinking water facilities are not available as one moves out from the urban core area. Slums also act as effective support systems by other residents taking care of the children while the mothers work during the day.
5. Market facilites and credit availability
Many slum dwellers are day to day hawkers. There needs to be a well developed supply chain and logistics to provide them with linkages to the consumer. Since slums have a well developed system of economic linkages, further migrants to the urban areas find themselves concentrating again into the slums.Slums also act as avenues of informal credit availability to these vulnerable sections of the population who otherwise are deprived of cheap credit from formal systems of banking.
It is obvious that these factors are inter related with one another and hence any government intervention to mitigate the problem of slum development in India has to factor in these issues holistically.
The Government of India had launched various flagship programmes that aim at rejuvenation of cities by incorporating a plan for slum development.
Earlier government programs such as PMAY and slum redevelopment programs had relied on complete ex-situ development of housing facilities for the slum residents. Such an approach is due to non participatory approach of the policy makers to the needs of the slum dwellers. Such an ex-situ redevelopment of slums have failed because of the reluctance of the slum dwellers to move out from the existing slum areas.
Instead the measures taken by the Odisha Government to provide the slum dwellers with land rights over the land in which they reside is a welcome step as it provides for in-situ redevelopment of slums.Such an approach can empower the slum dwellers by recognizing their rights over the land thus removing any fears of eviction. It is because of the fear of eviction, slum dwellers often oppose any governmental initiatives of in-situ development.
Smart cities program launched by the Union Government can be a great model in the right direction as it takes into consideration the transportation needs of the last mile, clean drinking water and urban amenities to be developed for the access of all urban residents. This is a great move as it includes rather than excluding the benefit of urban development to all sections of the urban society.
National Urban Livelihood Mission is another example of the approach of the government to address the credit needs of the slum dwellers. Bank linkages through the NULM can address the economic needs of the slum dwellers. The approach of the government through such programmes has been a one time credit delivery rather than continuous hand holding in the form of training programs to utilize the loan in the best possible manner.
Slum development needs to be a participatory process by means of which the concerns of the slum dwellers can be rightly addressed. The change in the mindset has to be reflected in the manner in which town planning is done. The change in the mindset has to be reflected by providing for creche facilities for the poor so that working mothers can be provided with support systems for their children so that the fear of relocation from the slums can be removed from their minds. It is through such a changed mindset urban development can become sustainable in the long run.