A large part of the country’s population lives in slums. Some slums are legally exiting, whereas majority ones are illegally thriving in large pockets of the country. The condition of slum dwellers in all parts of the country faces similar apathy and situations, which is not too different from one another.
The main reason why slums are facing total negligence from the authorities of the respective areas is that they are not considered an important part of the governance ambit. A visit to any slum area welcomes us with garbage heaps, poor sanitation and sewerage facilities, little or no drinking water facilities, etc. in the coming sections let us explore some of the points why the government is so negligent about the problems of slum dwellers.
The central policy makers ensure that their welfare schemes and policies reach out to every citizen of the country. But a larger population feels left out from this circuit of schemes mainly because the state governments play a very crucial role.
There have been many complaints before about the schemes reaching the desks of the state governments, where they are unnecessarily held up and not allowed to reach the hands of these poor slum dwellers. So, a lack of check by the central authorities in ensuring effective implementation of the policies they created for the welfare of the poor is creating this big gap.
Health administrations conduct regular checks of prominent places in big cities to ensure they are free of mosquito breeding grounds and have cleanliness maintained at least to some extent in their surroundings.
Whereas, health officials hardly pay any visit to these slums, where their requirements are more appreciated. Only when a severe case of death or a contagious outbreak of disease occurs, do the health officials take responsibility in their hands and pay a visit to these slums. In normal cases, they are hardly ever visited to check on their plight.
Lack of cleanliness
In the other parts of the city, that are not in the midst of slum set ups see their roads being cleaned and maintained to some extent, almost every other day. But if we pay a visit to any slum area, we would be surprised to find no mention of cleanliness in any corner of the set up. We can easily find heaps of garbage piled up at slums, not attended to and not cleared from many days. We can even find that cleanliness only remains a silent promise to these slum dwellers.
It is only during election time that these slum dwellers get the attention of the civic bodies in their attempt to woo them for votes. Once an election happens, these people are easily forgotten and any request made thereafter easily falls on deaf ears. Be it civic authorities or the empanelment bodies or the disbursing authorities, each has their own stories to tell of the sorry state of affairs about slum dwellers, but none of them is ever bothered to take any action to make their conditions any better.
The highlight of any slum locality is the poor cleanliness that glares at the outset itself. Piling up of garbage at every nook and corner, stinking smell from the uncleared mess, poor or no sanitation facilities, lack of availability of good drinking water, etc have lead to serious outbreak of diseases in slums.
Slum dwellers are easy prey to deadly diseases like cholera, diarrhea, malaria, gastrointestinal disorders etc. Malnutrition is something that runs in the blood of these slum dwellers. They are deprived of basic facilities such as electricity and water. Most of the children staying in slums do not get proper food, clothing and education. They are highly under nourished and lead lives in danger.
Open defecation is another major concern among slums as they do not have any sanitation or sewerage facilities at their set up. Filthy drains become a good breeding ground for mosquitoes that contaminate water resources in and around them. They may cause malaria among slum dwellers and the areas surrounding them too.
Authorities’ lack of action
A big chunk, almost a third of India’s slums live in unorganized colonies. They are not legally set up too. They are results of encroachments that may be pulled down at any point of time by the local governing authorities. The higher percentage of scheduled caste (SC) representation among slum dwellers is being mooted as a reason why they see no development or progress and the situation is not changing.
If we were to look at ratios, the scheduled caste representation in slums is almost one out of five, whereas in the other part it is relatively low. In primary urban areas, the representation stands at one out of every ten residents. These figures are for the whole of the country’s representation.
Slum pockets in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Bihar easily account for 51% of India’s slum inhabitants and the situation is not quite improving at all. The reasons why authorities fail to revamp the situation is the presence of anti social elements among these slum dwellers.
For a situation like this to change, the authorities seek co-operation from the slum dwellers to rehabilitate them to better places. But on the other hand, the slum dwellers have very poor faith in the authorities and fear losing the single shelter above their head, leaving them with nothing.
In the past we have seen slum colonies being pulled down and razed to demarcate the illegal ones from the legally rehabilitated ones. Many such drives have left the slum dwellers homeless and children can be seen suffering on the road.
Such negligence is totally uncalled for. Authorities face threats from local politicians with a lot of power play and illegal hands in the background and this drives them to not take any action in the welfare of slum dwellers.
Lack of education is another main reason why slum dwellers do not contribute to society in the mainstream. They are left to fend on their own. With no help on food or medical grounds from the local authorities, they feel the heat in trying to make a living on their own.
Policies that are made in their favor usually fail in terms of implementation at the bottom level, creating a gap between the policy maker and the person who can actually benefit from them. Policies usually lie on paper and hardly benefit the slum dwellers because the administration is least bothered to check its effective implementation.
Slum dwellers should not be used as pawns in the hands of local goons and politicians and brought to the fore during elections alone. They should be allowed to live life with all forms of basic amenities and secured with life and health insurances. The government should support their education and give them special considerations in terms of aiding in medical facilities.
Basic infrastructure should be set up and maintained to provide a normal livelihood to these slum dwellers. Awareness on the importance of cleanliness and health should be conducted through health camps and regular sanitation should be checked to ensure smooth functioning of all facilities.