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Published by: Nishant Singh on Feb 15, 2011
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02/15/2011

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POVERTY AND SLUMS IN INDIA IMPACT OF CHANGING ECONOMIC LANDSCAPE

Guest Column by Hari Sud Western media headlines as usual are as follows twenty five percent of Indians live on less than a dollar a day and seventy percent live on less than two dollars a day. The forgoing was the headline of May 9, 2005 in a major international newspaper. Others headlines are not any less mischievous. These are all meaningless analysis. It does not reflect that same amount of money has differing values in different places. A more acceptable and bit accurate description of incomes in countries is Purchase Power Parity (PPP), which is, pricing identical products and services as needed by the local population in different countries, thus establishing a new and a more equitable exchange rate. The foregoing is applicable mostly to tradable goods. The PPP will put India s GDP at $3.7 Trillion. This will raise daily monies of twenty five percent of Indians at the lowest rung of the society to seven dollars. The latter is still low but is much higher than the Western media would like to project. The forgoing is not the point; the point is that poverty is a major shame in India s otherwise decent, scientifically advanced, peace loving and at times turbulent image. Poverty creates slums and slums breed hopelessness and crime. Hence it needs to be tackled as an integral part of economic development. The key question that arises - will the current hype in economical development in India alter the landscape for the very poor? The answer is that, not much will change in next 20 to 25 years. The real impact will be felt later than twenty-five years. That is when 8% growth trajectory will take the PPP daily income of the very poor in India from seven dollars to forty dollars. By then, a $20 Trillion GDP economy (PPP basis) and $600 billion in exports (year 2001 basis) will add one hundred and fifty million jobs, of which forty to fifty million will go to the very poor segment of the society. This general prosperity will not only put food on the table but will add to better living, better housings etc. In the intervening period of 25 years, rising income levels will definitely add to the exodus from the slums to planned living areas. The forgoing also requires massive governmental effort to house people properly. Let us examine this issue of poverty and slums in Indian cities and its relationship to the betterment of economic conditions of the masses, a bit further? What Causes Slums in the Cities in the First Place? It is vicious cycle of population growth, opportunities in the cities (leading to migration to the cities), poverty with low incomes, tendency to be closer to work hence occupying any land in the vicinity etc. The key reason out of all is the slow economic progress. After independence in 1947, commercial and industrial activity needed cheap labor in the cities. Plentiful was available in the rural area. They were encouraged to come to cities and work. People, who migrated to the cities and found work, brought their cousins and rest of the families to the cities. Unable to find housing and afford it, they decided to build their shelter closer to work. First, one shelter was built, then two and then two thousand and then

By mid sixties Mumbai. . hence higher incomes are key criteria for poverty reduction and slum elimination. India s economy has to remain at a high state of growth. hence slums took a bit of a permanent shape. Higher incomes will create a demand for inexpensive housing. 8% growth rate of Indian economy will push per capita GDP to $2. The forgoing is India s shame despite huge progress. should get a better deal in housing which replaces the slums. To avoid that. This is quite a contrast from the image which one gets in the media or from the opportunist politicians. India s capital of Delhi has a million and a half out of fourteen million living in slums. With availability of affordable housing and jobs. slum dwelling is the last thought on people s mind. refrigerators and radios are also blaring music.ten thousand and on and on. They organized these unauthorized dwellers into a political force. On the other hand if the above does not happen then slums dwellers will triple in 25 years and so will the poverty. In addition slum living has to be made unattractive with land taxes and denial of social services. Very poor people live in slums. Government provided housing would be a great failure as it has been elsewhere in the world. Kolkata. Others are avoiding paying rent and property taxes. That will also reduce pressure on housing. These two together could end poverty and slums. More slums developed as more population moved to the cities.000 level in about twenty to twenty-five years (PPP per capita GDP will be much higher). It is not unusual that in the dirtiest of slums. Delhi will have four and a half million-slum dwellers. Fairly well to do people also reside there. They have prospered but are unable to find affordable housing. The latter is more often the case. Other big urban centers have done no better. Instead sufficient cash has to be placed in the people s hands together with in-expensive land that people s housing program become efficient and affordable. The foregoing together with the current urban renewal in progress in the urban areas today will give cities in India a new look. Kolkata and Mumbai will have even bigger numbers. Slum colonies. and all other large cities were dotted with slums. The forgoing presupposes that the population does not explode in the near future but continue a healthy 1. Delhi. They are either offspring of the slum dwellers that found education and an occupation. Politicians looked at the slums as vote bank. which opt out of current hopelessness. They are not the only one dwelling there. This followed with rapidly growing rural economy will kill migration.5 to 2% growth. hence have continued to stay in the shantytowns. Conniving governments provided electricity and drinking water. Newly built cities like Chandigarh and surrounding towns where shantytowns could have been avoided altogether have now slums. which will have to be met with innovative use of land and building techniques. India s shame will have no end. Mumbai is worst with greater percentage living in slums. That is where the magic equilibrium of prosperity and desire to live a better life begins. where misery prevails that TV sets. Jobs created by the economic growth. How will the growing Economy impact Poverty and the Slum dwellers? As stated above.

These slums worsened further with the arrival of newly liberated African-American population from Deep South. Poverty by the end of the Second World War was a thing of the past. That does not mean that all the Ghettos disappeared.e. First World War gave US economy a boost and America joined the select group of countries of Europe in prosperity. General well being of the people living in the poorer section of the cities dramatically improved. which described these places. The point is that if economy progresses and special effort is made to uplift the poor. A free wheeling economy created industrial giants and a super rich class. 60 years after the WWII. People without jobs and with no prospects crowded cities in the North. i. The era pictures give a glimpse of everyday life and it is not pretty. New York and Boston had great amount of poverty and slums at the turn of the twentieth century. It is possible in India too if the economy sustains the 8% growth trajectory. That includes the richest nation of the world USA. They continued to exist. And it made the difference. US raced ahead of Europe and are still ahead. Post war reconstruction in Europe added greater impetus to the economy. Immigrant from different background or race crowded together and gave rise to Ghettos. One critical factor which eliminated slums and poverty in US was quadrupling of the US economy from 1900 to 1940. US were nation of 160 million souls. Poverty and slums in India are at the same level as they were in beginning of the twentieth century in America. There is a parallel here. by 1950. poverty and slums will be overtaken by better economic conditions of the people. As twentieth century progressed a concerted effort was made to clean up the Ghettos and push people inland with free grant of land and promise of prosperity. In most cities. At that time US did not have control over its economy and Civil War debt and additional monies borrowed to rehabilitate agriculture and commerce after the Civil War was unpaid. How did US Tackle its Slums? US had its share of poverty and slums in around the immigrant dominated cities. Ghetto was coined. ghettos disappeared or shrunk. all prosperous and all well employed (forget the habitual lazy). A new word. but on a much lower scale. finally arrived. Industrial Revolution. Urban renewal and building boom in last sixty years has completely changed the landscape of the country. It is a concerted effort and better policies. . No country in the world has ever been able to end poverty and slums completely. Also. Need for war material during the WWII resulted in creation of huge industrial infrastructure and innovation. Economic growth over fifty years eliminated them. free land in the West gave rise to food self-sufficiency and paying off of all Civil War and post Civil War debts. It provided the much-needed jobs to the immigrants and colored. In just fifty years. which was slow in reaching America from Europe. These are not eyesores.No single policy has ever brought an end to poverty and slums. They exist today. which will end it.

The latter could be a factory provided bunk bed. China likes to pretend that poverty has been removed. People were permitted to return to their homes in the cities only after proof of their residency had been established. That means that a migration of rural population to the urban areas in search of jobs was arrested. sooner will the poverty vanish and with it. That is when the unemployed and slum dwellers were pushed to newly developing industrial hubs of Sheffield.cfm?story_id=5636460) . Future residency in the cities was permitted on a permit basis only. Slums were everywhere. How did China handle its Poverty and Slums? Chinese had a unique way of making slums disappear from its urban centers. were emptied out. Hence the major problem of unplanned urban squatting was prevented. In addition the war ravaged eastern provinces where rural population had moved to the cities and into the slums. First slums in Kolkata appeared in 1850-70 as a result of systematic destruction of textile industry in Bengal and destruction of trading infrastructure in and around Kolkata. Published reports state otherwise. The point is that reduction of poverty and slums follow closely with economic development. Colonization brought prosperity and prosperity brought in a huge effort to improve the lot of the people and clean up of the cities. Work for everybody in England was the cornerstone of building wellserviced cities. Birmingham. Outsiders were sent back to their own homes and land in the rural area. Nobody questioned Mao Tse Tung s wisdom. Great Briton was an agrarian society.Slums and the Great Briton Great Briton was a great big slum before they became a colonial power in the nineteenth century. US and elsewhere.com/World/asia/displayStory. (http://www. Kolkata were heavens. London had the biggest slums. Compared to that Delhi. Their GDP multiplied 8 times over this period. where the lord lived happily in his Manor and Castles and the masses lived in a great squalor. British factories produced goods and services which were sold at profit in the in the colonies. Whether the same is true in the China s rural areas is a debatable issue.economist. The FDI built cities of Guangdong province carry on with the permit system established in 1949. Even today the foregoing policy continues. a person has to have a job and place to reside. the slums. Faster the economic development. until 1800s. In order to move there. hence he had a free hand. It took all the Victorian age from 1825 to 1900 to vanish poverty and slums in England. Liverpool and Manchester. For eight hundred years prior. Slums elsewhere followed. Major economic progress in last 20 years has re-invigorated the cities with investment and reconstruction. Permit system to live in a city or in a particular neighborhood was introduced just after the Communist took control in 1949. This prevents urban squatters. The above is no comparison to how poverty was vanished in UK.

Whereas governments are concentrating on building infrastructure and industrial base. From 1950 to today. when they finally left India in 1947. The poor and slum dwellers are not there in any building equation. No new funds were made available to the people to renew and rebuild. . The problem grew acute with huge population growth after 1950.Urban Renewal In India Urban renewal is in progress in India in a big way for the last 50 years. cities lacked funds to renew themselves and help build additional housing. Cheap housing projects are lowest in the category. Shimla and Kolkota. They all began the same way people s livelihood was destroyed or they were invited to work in factories without adequate housing. Thus urban slums and squatting began in a big way. The problem got compounded with migration of people from rural areas. The British starved cities in India of the funds for two hundred years. hence Moghul Delhi presented a decaying and a rundown look. Slums in Kolkata predate Delhi slums. Today. So do the Mumbai slums. Expanding industry and commerce needed them hence migration was encouraged. some estimates place 10 to 15% of Delhi population as slum dwellers. Only recently a huge building and construction boom has started in all cities in India. Hence slum dwelling has become a way of life. They only built regal palaces for themselves in Delhi. private construction is building work places. People lacked adequate jobs hence are caught in the poverty cycle. shopping districts and housing for the middle class.

and has lived in Canada for the past 34 years. That is a sure fire method to keep the slums going. Others will prefer to move out.How Long the Poor have to wait? If the experience elsewhere is a guide then poverty. provided India does not make the mistake of regularizing the slums/bustees with land tenure on tenable land and other amenities. Eight percent GDP growths is a good sign. It happened in US and elsewhere. Only now. With rise in income level. It may take another 25 years before the slums are vacated.harisud@hotmail. had economic policies of the present were in place 50 years back. slums and urban squat will be a diminishing phenomenon. Even the possibility of this ever happening in a distant future will keep the slum dwellers in the slums. (The author is a retired Vice President from C-I-L Inc. The Views expressed are his own. if the rapid economic progress keeps its pace. where enough money in people s pocket will persuade them to vacate the slums. It will happen in India too. This won t we reached for another 20 to 25 years. A graduate of Punjab University andUniversity of Missouri . tendency to head to the slums has lessened. By about middle of this period with increased availability of housing and higher incomes. Decline will begin only when much higher incomes are reached (as stated above). Email. This is a normal phenomenon. With quadrupled GDP in 25 years. the growth in slum dwelling will be arrested. Conclusion Poverty. slums and urban squat are not going to go away in next 20 to 25 years. the author is a former investment strategies analyst and international relations manager. all signs point to a rapidly rising GDP together with rising per capita GDP. there is a good chance that the new and upcoming generation may stay away from slum dwelling. An economic equilibrium has not been reached in the society yet. People will always wait for free grant of land ownership even if these grants never materialize. Reversal of this phenomenon will begin after sufficient economic progress had been made. USA .com) . Rolla . Die-hard slum dwellers who wish to pay no taxes and spend nothing on housing will most certainly continue to stay there. Today we would have smaller of the slums.

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