Article on Problem of slums in India

Slums refer to makeshift housing or shanties found especially in urban areas, and are characterised by lack of basic facilities, squalor and overcrowding.  There is no regular supply of water, electricity or proper sanitation facilities. Slums are generally built on government land that is lying unclaimed or vacant. They are mostly occupied by migrant workers, unskilled labour, domestic workers and other such persons who cannot afford proper housing in the cities. Almost 49% of the total population in Mumbai lives in slums. Hence, its widespread prevalence is unquestionable.

Conditions in slums

The conditions in slums are deplorable. The settlements are built in small, congested areas, near airports, railway lines and industries, rivers and other water bodies, and markets. The settlements are built with whatever material people there can find be if corrugated sheets or gunny bags or polythene bags. This is not only unhygienic but also creates complications during monsoon when there is flooding during heavy rains.

There is no regular supply of water through pipes. This makes obtaining clean drinking water very difficult. Used and dirty water is not properly disposed off through covered pipes, but is just roughly directed away from the settlements. Since there is no proper sewage or waste disposal system, garbage is accumulated near the slums or thrown into the water bodies in case the slums are near a water body. There are no proper sanitation facilities, and people tend to defecate in public. There is no regulated supply of electricity in slums, making living conditions very poor. In conclusion, the standard of living is extremely poor.

The existence of such conditions makes it easier for people living here to contract diseases and easily spread infectious diseases because many people live in close quarters.

Reasons for prevalence of slums

Simply put, most people in slums live there because they have no other viable housing options. However, even slum redevelopment schemes in places such as Mumbai have failed because the rehabilitated people tend to sell their allotted housing and look for housing in slums again so that they may earn some money. Hence, poverty and lack of well-paying jobs capable of improving people’s living conditions also contribute to the perpetuation of slums. Most people migrate to urban areas in search of employment. Once in the city, they find only underpaid unskilled jobs in the tertiary sector. Thus, with such jobs these persons cannot afford suitable housing in cities where the cost of living is quite high. Hence, they are forced to find accommodation in a settlement or slums.

Also, many small-scale enterprises also operate from slums where they can escape monitoring by local authorities and rules, guidelines cannot be enforced. For example, tanneries and small snack making entities abound in Dharavi, Mumbai.

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