Abstract: The paper presents definition of slum in the national context and the problems faced by slum occupants in terms of health and hygiene, the living conditions and the social issues. Special mention is made about the scenario in Bangalore and the efforts by some activist’s and organizations towards betterment of the slum inhabitants and the areas.
For the past few decades, the question is of increasing slums, particularly in urban areas which has been debated in various forums. Extensive studies and research is carried out by prestigious institutions like Indian Institute of Management(IIM) and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) have come out with startling statistics about the growth of slums. The subject “Slums” has assumed greater importance in the wake of 74th amendment to the Constitution of India and implementation of JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Mission).
Slums have attracted the attention of the Government and the policy making bodies at least since 1956. The Slum-Area Improvement Clearance Act (SAISA) which came into force in 1956 tried to control the growth of slums.
The definition of ‘Slum’ varies from country to country. In India each state has its own definition of ‘Slum’. The National definition of ‘Slum Areas’ was set up by the SAICA of 1956, according to which the slums are the places where buildings:
The census of India defines a slum as a compact area of at least 300 in population or about 60 to 70 households of poorly built congested tenements in an unhygienic environment usually with inadequate infrastructure and lacking proper sanitation and drinking water facilities. Migration is one of the main reasons for development of slums. Slums grow as a result of migration from rural areas to more developed areas by people looking to earn more through higher paying manual labour compared to the low returns life of agriculture.
Health, Hygiene and Sanitation
Slums are looked upon as wretched areas with dirt and diseases and centre of criminal activities. Slums becomes a major health concern, because residents of sums live in overcrowded situations. They live in dirty floor and poor ventilation which will lead to rapid spread of respiratory and skin diseases. Lack of safe drinking water facility facilitates the spread of water borne diseases. The people make use of common public taps or wells and wash their clothes and utensils near the open drains increasing their chances of becoming a prey to bacterial and viral diseases. The presence of stored water further promotes the breeding of mosquitoes and diseases such as malaria. The common diseases in this class are like cholera, infectious hepatitis, diphtheria, chicken pox, measles, flue, plague, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD), Acquired immunity deficiency Syndromes (AIDS), Tuberculosis(TB). Absence of latrines is a major health problem. One more common problem is nutritional deficiency. Death and illness among slum women is from reproductive causes like pregnancy, child birth and abortion. In spite of the laws made by the government age at marriage is not raised. Poor utilization of the reproductive child health services provided by the government , lack of awareness regarding birth spacing, very low use of contraceptives are some of the reasons for population growth in slums.
Slum population scenario
Slum population lives in huts constructed with unconventional materials like untreated waste wooden planks, gunny bags, polythene sheets, bamboo mats, etc., used for walls as well as for roofs. In slums the main source of water are hand pumps. In many cases a number of persons share one toilet with open drains on almost all sides of the huts. They have no access to bathroom facilities. Majority of the people in slums belong to lower socio economic classes and have migrated to the city with the hopes of better means of livelihood. Having basically no education, skill and work experience, they have no choice in the competitive job market and take up lowly paid jobs such as construction labourer, domestic servants, casual factory workers etc.
Social problems and moral apathy
Alcoholism is a disease endemic to slums and it leads to moral and economic degradation and also it results in serious health problems. Slum residents come from villages to cities look for better jobs. Most of them are illiterates. Due to poverty women will be forced to work out side the house. Usually they take up jobs like selling vegetables, doing some hold works in nearby areas, working as Ayahs. Viewing themselves as temporary workers they are un willing to make any changes to improve their lives. Due to poverty and illiteracy the slum women knowledge regarding reproductive health is pathetic. Sometimes Women and female children are forced to become prostitutes in order to buy their necessities of life. Even though these women fall sick frequently they do not go for proper treatment due to fear of losing their income in case, they were advised rest by doctors.
Primary schooling through Corporation Schools is a free educational system provided by the Government of India. Researcher Mr. Vydyanathan Lakshmanan writes that this education again depends on various personal factors like availability of funds, interest in studies, family situations, etc., Drop outs are high, and many students do not continue beyond 7th standard. Providing suitable facilities to pursue their education is the only remedy.
Slums are products of failed politics, bad governance, corruption, inappropriate regulations, dysfunctional and markets, unresponsive financial systems and a fundamental lack of political help. About 30% of Bangalore population live in slums. Around 400 slums have been set up in open areas, such as along railway lines or on pavements or in informal settlements scattered across the city. They prefer to stay at places where they can find work as cleaners, laborers, rag pickers in nearby areas, in order to reduce the cost of travel.
According to Bruhad Bangaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) commissioner Mr.Siddaiah 30 to 40% of Bangalore’s population is living in sub human conditions in slums. Bangalore has more than 1000 slums, but not all of them have been notified as slums. Some have been facilitated by good drinking water, drainage and other civic amenities
Bangalore slums vary in size and population. Ambedkar circle slum has just 60 persons, where has Pillaganahalli slum near Gottgere in South Bangalore has over 2,258 households. Though Ullal is the second largest in households (2070) The third largest is Ashrayanagar slum located in Rajarajeswarinagar with 1379 households.
APSA,s( Accredited Social Health Activists) initiative took the form of ‘Nammane’ which began in 1991. It provides help and appropriate alternative for children from a variety of difficult back grounds like child laborers, street children, child victims of domestic violence, child victims of physical or sexual abuse, abandoned or runaway children, children in distress, or rescued from dangerous situations. These children receive a safe environment, care, counseling and alternatives which may help them retrieve some part of their childhood. APSAs is encouraging these children by making a systematic effort to put them back into regular school system with variety of modules of formal and non-formal education. APSA is serving about 2000 children each year. More than 50% of the children are graduates or acquired suitable training and are suitably placed.
APSAs is currently running 3 child labour centers at Manjunathanagar, Rajendranagar, and Byappanahalli. It is also involved in social mobilization formation of groups and sanghas of women and youth in the slums towards realizing their basic rights like drinking water , sanitation, ration cards, voter’s list, etc., Long term programs like legal Aid, leadership workshops, land issues, health issues, housing, etc., are taken up in 10 slums of Bangalore and 30 slums of Hyderabad.
Certain Self Help Groups (NGOs) are working on organized savings and credit activities in the slums with an aim of brining about a qualitative change in the lives of families in the slums through economic empowerment.
Mrs Rashmi Madhav Prasad and a team of activitists from the “Society for Peoples Action for Development (SPAD) have reported 2 case studies where 2 ladies were denied of proper medical care and admission when they went to hospital for delivery. Because of their heartless behavior one has to lost her child and the other one has to deliver the baby in the toilet
The SPAD president Augustine C Kaunds has said that the public health system should be accountable to the poor and they should not be deprived of their fundamental right to health care.
Mr E Premdas member of Jana Arogya Andolana, an NGO, has expressed shock at the state of BBMP hospitals and health centers. He has also expressed his deep feeling that institutional deliveries are still a distant dream for poor people though the city is over flowing with health and medical professionals.
Women’s Court in the slums of Bangalore
The ‘Naari Adalat’ the first women’s court was held in the narrow streets outside people’s houses with members of the community sitting on mats on the ground. People gathered to discuss about their grievances. Women from ‘Self Help’ group were encouraged to take responsibility to provide financial help, moral support and educate them in solving domestic violence’s. Many other associations like , Namma Mane, Vikas, Inchara, Makkalamane, Makkala Sahayavani, Hasiru Sangha, Child labour Centers, etc., are involved in helping women and children in slum areas.
Currently one third of the population resides in slums. Many younger generation’s irrespective of gender express their deep interest in educating their children. The Government is trying to provide basic essentials in the name of ‘ Public Health and City Beautification’ scheme. But still politicians look at slums as ‘Vote Banks’. Local authorities, the NGOs who are working for upgrading slums should work in close co-ordination with Government and play a vital role in making certain regulations like:
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