Sunday, June 7, 2009


A slum, as defined by the United Nations agency UN-HABITAT, is a run-down area of a city characterized by substandard housing and squalor and lacking in tenure security. According to the United Nations, one billion people worldwide live in slums and will likely grow to 2 billion by 2030.The characteristics associated with slums vary from place to place. Slums are usually characterized by urban decay, high rates of poverty, and unemployment. They are commonly seen as "breeding grounds" for social problems such as crime, drug addiction, alcoholism, high rates of mental illness, and suicide. In many poor countries they exhibit high rates of disease due to unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, and lack of basic health care.
For the first time in 2001 Census data was collected for slums. Slum data was collected for cities/towns having 50,000 population or more based on 1991 census.It is unfortunate that the number of people living in slums in India, Asia's fourth largest economy, has more than doubled in the past two decades, the government said on Thursday.According to this population of slums all over India is 40,297,341 (40 million) from the 607 cities/towns reporting slums. This comes to ~4% of total Indian population (assuming Indian population of 1000 million). More interestingly it comes to ~22% of the total population of these cities (178,393,941).This means that almost quarter of Indian cities live in slums. And sadly 5,531,062 (5 million) of this population are young children (0-6 age group). The numbers for the richest state in India, Maharashtra are even worse. Almost 32% of the state's population live in slums. And > 5 million (5,823,510 to be precise) are in the financial capital of India, Mumbai. About 49% of Mumbai's population live in slums.
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 ten thousand and on and on.
Poverty, slums and urban squat are not going to go away in next 20 to 25 years. Reversal of this phenomenon will begin after sufficient economic progress had been made. Eight percent GDP growths is a good sign. With quadrupled GDP in 25 years, there is a good chance that the new and upcoming generation may stay away from slum dwelling. It may take another 25 years before the slums are vacated.

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