A large part of the country’s population lives in slums, and some slums are legally exiting, whereas the majority 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 face total negligence from the authorities of the respective areas is that they are not considered an essential 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 why the government is so negligent about the problems of slum dwellers.
Policies and Governance Models of the Central Authorities
The central policymakers ensure that their welfare schemes and policies reach out to every country citizen. But a larger population feels they are left out from this circuit of schemes mainly because the state governments play a 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. Health officials hardly pay any visit to these slums, where their requirements are more appreciated. Only when a severe death or a contagious outbreak of disease occurs do the health officials take responsibility in their hands and pay a visit to these slums. They are hardly ever visited to check on their plight in normal cases.
Lack of Cleanliness
In the other parts of the city that are not in the midst of slum setups, see their roads being cleaned and maintained to some extent, almost every other day. But if we visit any slum area, we would be surprised to find no mention of cleanliness in any corner of the setup. We can easily find heaps of garbage piled up at slums, not attended to, and not cleared for 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 after that 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.
Negligence from Authorities
The highlight of any slum locality is the poor cleanliness that glares at the outset. Piling up of garbage at every nook and corner, the stinking smell from the uncleared mess, poor or no sanitation facilities, lack of availability of good drinking water, etc., leads to a serious outbreak of diseases in slums.
Slum-dwellers easily prey to deadly diseases like cholera, diarrhea, malaria, gastrointestinal disorders, etc. Malnutrition runs in the blood of these slum dwellers, and they are deprived of basic facilities such as electricity and water. Most children staying in slums do not get proper food, clothing, and education, and they are highly undernourished 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 setup. 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, and 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 because they see no development or progress, and the situation is not changing.
If we look at ratios, the scheduled caste representation in slums is almost one out of five, whereas it is relatively low in the other part. The representation stands at one out of every ten residents in urban areas, and 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 are 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.
Authorities face threats from local politicians with a lot of power play and illegal hands in the background, which drives them to not take any action in the welfare of slum dwellers. Lack of education is another main reason 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 made in their favor usually fail in implementation at the bottom level, creating a gap between the policymaker 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 insurance. The government should support their education and give them special considerations in aiding in medical facilities.
Basic infrastructure should be set up and maintained to provide a normal livelihood to these slum dwellers. Awareness of the importance of cleanliness and health should be conducted through health camps, and regular sanitation should be checked to ensure the smooth functioning of all facilities.