India to study its slums - and its residents

June 21st, 2008 - 10:31 am ICT by IANS  

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, June 21 (IANS) The Indian government will launch a nationwide survey to study the life led by some 68 million people living in slums across the country. “The survey will bring forth the living conditions in urban slums, hardships faced by the slum dwellers, their socio-economic status, and the place of their migration,” said P.K. Ray, director general of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).

“In view of growing urbanisation, a large number of poor people are turning to bigger and middle rung cities for livelihood. The majority lives in slums. There is a need to assess their condition and initiate corrective measures,” Ray told IANS in an interview.

According to the Planning Commission’s estimates, nearly 62 million people - out of a total population of 1.2 billion - lived in urban slums in India in 2001. There will be a shortage of around 25 million houses for them in the next five years.

“Housing (for the poor) is another area of concern. In India, a large number of people are without shelter. There is a big mismatch between the need and supply of housing facilities in the country,” said Ray.

The year-long survey being conducted at the behest of the urban development ministry will start on July 1. It will cover nearly 15,000 villages and blocks in urban centres. The report will be released by October 2009.

At the moment the government does not have any comprehensive study on the status of slums in India, making it difficult for policy makers to help improve the lives of slum dwellers.

“A survey is needed to accelerate the process of slum development,” said a senior official in the ministry.

“Life in slums in India as elsewhere is marked by sheer lack of basic civic amenities. And all the big and medium-sized cities are dotted with dingy and stinking ghettos,” said Ray.

In Delhi alone, there are around 860 slum clusters. Each is said to have between 100 and 1,000 huts, with a total population of about four million.

Delhi Mayor Arti Mehra told IANS that around 800,000 dwelling units were required to accommodate slum dwellers so that they have access to basic health, educational and other facilities.

“The survey will be helpful in evolving strategies and an action plan for the proper rehabilitation of slum dwellers,” said Mehra, who also heads the Delhi Municipal Corporation’s slum committee.

According to an estimate of the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation, there was a shortfall of over 169 million dwelling units - 148 million in rural areas and 21.4 million in urban areas.

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