Alternatives to Slum Demolitions in India

Since 2000, slum demolition in major cities across India has dramatically increased. Slum demolition wrecks havoc on those families displaced and causes economic disruption, what are the alternatives?

Why does Slum Demolition Matter?

Investment in Human Capital

Slum dwellers are vital parts of the economy, filling low wages positions and their work contributes to the stimulation of the economy. Demolitions effect their capacity to contribute by taking time away from their work and draining the amount of money they have available. If they have to spend money rebuilding their home, they will not be using it for other purposes.

Unsanitary Conditions for Slum Dwellers and the community

Lack of basic amenities provide inhumane living conditions for slum dwellers. With no running water to take baths in, they are forced to use any they can access which oftentimes is already polluted and their use contributes to the pollution. Lack of latrines or bathrooms also creates unhealthy conditions which can pollute the community beyond the slum. 

Factors to Slum Development

There are several factors which have lead to the development of slums in urban areas. One aspect is that slums are the product of imbalanced urban growth and an over-concentration of economic resources in one area. When there is a lack of jobs or opportunity in the rural areas, people must come to where the jobs are in urban settings. This is also an unwanted and unplanned effect of structural adjustment programs of the IMF or World Bank. The programs are intended to stimulate the economy of the nation but historically have had an adverse effect on the rural communities. Slum-dwellers suffer a lack of regular sources of livelihood, occupational vulnerability and work in jobs which lack a minimum wage standard. All of these factors increase the vulnerability to their housing. These low-income circumstances combined with the extremely high cost of land in urban environments all contribute to the creation of slums. Once slums are created, there is pressure to get rid of them and if demolition is used as the answer, the results can create a more difficult situation for the displaced inhabitants and oftentimes don’t even have the desired effect of the demolition.

Post Demolition Effects

Demolitions are conducted and afterwards, several things occur, lots are sometimes left vacant and people start a slum again on the same area, it can become a dumping ground, can be turned into parks or green areas, or it becomes a construction of a planned project or road. The majority are left vacant. Demolitions lead to densification of existing nearby slums, creating a more difficult situation there. In the cases where families are relocated to a new area, it is usually at the periphery of the city and the government must account for the cost of providing bus service as well as the new settlement. For the families, income is lost, additional travel costs accumulate, savings are lost and new expenses are contribute to the perpetuation of their poverty, which makes the relocation option not the optimal choice.

Legal Background of Slum Demolition in India

Domestic

Historically, in India, there has been consideration for slum dwellers and an acknowledgment that the government had an obligation to them to provide services. It was recognized that lack of these services would lead to unsanitary conditions for the slums as well as the surrounding community. The Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Act of 1971 pledged to provide basic amenities to slums and that excess public lands would be allocated to slum-dwellers and eventually deeds would be granted. The 74th Amendment to India’s Constitution aims to strengthen the position of urban governance in a more organized manner. This attempt aspires to augment the efficiency and effectiveness of municipalities in the discharge of their duties and functions with the participation of the population. The aim was that both local and national government agents would be more capable of planning and financing, housing is one aspect of the planning. Despite the amendment, the municipalities are facing wide-ranging problems and haven’t been efficient. Article 21 of the Constitution which states citizens’ “right to life” has also been interpreted as right to housing. In 1980 Ratlam Municipal Council vs. Vardichan court case clarified that the municipal authorities and not slum-dwellers are the party responsible for nuisances arising from slums with inadequate municipal services. Additionally, in  the 1992 K K Manchanda vs. the Union of India case also focused on the nuisance creation of slums. The ruling found that municipal services must be provided to slum dwellers to avoid the creation of the nuisance.

Changes in India

In 2000, rulings in cases began finding the slums to be nuisances in and of themselves and the state responsibility no longer was to provide facilities to the slums but that they should prevent the creation of slums and had the obligation to get rid of slums for the good of the greater community. In 2000 the case  Almitra Patel vs. the Union of India declares slums themselves are places of filth and nuisance, lacking basic concern for health and environment and need to be prevented. Both Almitra Patel (2000) and Okhla Factory Owners’ Association (2002) additionally deny the obligation of the state to provide resettlement alternatives to the evicted families. It was this shift in judgments that lead to the use of phrase “illegal encroachments” and identifying “slums as illegal.”

International

India is signatory to several international commitments which obligate the state governments to provide adequate housing to their citizens and acknowledges housing as a basic human right. The Istanbul declaration in 1996 to which India is a signatory states, “Adequate shelter and services are a basic human right which places an obligation on governments to ensure their attainment by all people.” The 1956 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also states, “Evictions should not result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, the State Party must take all appropriate measures, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure that adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land, as the case may be, is available.”

How can I help?

Supporting clean water access helps with some of these issues for slum dwellers, when sanitary conditions deteriorate is when locals usally complain, prompting the demolitions.

http://www.slumaid.org/

Main partner:
Lok Seva Sangam  an Indian NGO which has been working in Mumbai slums for the past 36 years. www.loksevasangam.com/

Other partners:

Svarga Dwar – an Ashram type of project situated in Taloja just outside Mumbai. It looks after orphans and ex Hansen’s disease patients.
http://www.swargadwar.com

Parva school – This is a school project set up by a former volunteer in the slums of Jaipur, Rajastan.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Parva-School/313193442047267

http://pahalindia.org/get_involved.html

http://www.smilefoundationindia.org/

http://www.universalgiving.org/donate/help_fight_poverty_in_india/id8219.do

Syria

Today in Syria, there are over 6.5 million displaced people and 3 million of them have become refugees to other countries. The UN estimates that as of January 2015, 220,000 people have died. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been trying to make their way to other countries in the region as well as to Europe. The countries that are currently hosting the most refugees are Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan. At the time of this writing Turkey houses the most—with a total of 1,938,999 registered Syrian refugees living in Turkey inside or outside its seven camps and many more unregistered.  Jordan has three camps with over 622,000 refugees as of February 2015. In Iraq, the eight camps are only located in Iraqi Kurdistan. Lebanon and The Republic of Macedonia both have two camps each. Additionally, “7.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced within the country, bringing the total number forced to flee their homes to more than 11 million – half the country’s pre-crisis population.” (BBC)

According to the UN, an estimated 12.2 million refugees are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, including 5.6 million children. (UNHCR) Internal refugees do not receive the same attention as international refugees. According to Helton, “The narrow focus on providing relief to the uprooted who have crossed national borders fails to acknowledge the fact that tens of millions of people around the world today are displaced within their home countries. The result is unnecessary expense, instability, humiliation and suffering.” (Helton 71) It is particularly difficult for those individuals because access to humanitarian assistance is severely limited. Syria is considered to be the most dangerous place on earth right now, and it is difficult for humanitarian workers to enter. Consequently, those in danger have few resources to utilize. “Public security and the rule of law, finally will be crucial issues […] insecurity can thwart humanitarian assistance as well as the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.” (Helton 81)

The Syrian refugee crisis has come to be known as the worst refugee crisis since World War II. What has now become a civil war began as protests against the Assad regime in March 2011 in response to the arrest and torture of teenagers making graffiti on a school wall that depicted revolutionary slogans and ideas. Police opened fire on protesters, which lead to more protests demanding that Assad step down as president. The government forces responded with more force and by July, hundreds of thousands were protesting across the country. With the force being exerted by the government, protesters took up arms to defend themselves and eventually to try to eliminate security forces from their local areas. Due to the instability in the country and the power vacuums that developed in the contested areas, the conflict has now evolved into an issue of the country’s Sunni majority against the Shia (Assad’s sect) as well as the rise of fundamentalist groups within the territories, principally the Islamic State, referred to in the American media as ISIS.

In 2011, a UN commission of inquiry claims that since 2011, both sides (rebels and government forces) have committed war crimes including murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearances. The BBC reports that “Government and rebel forces have also been accused by investigators of using civilian suffering – such as blocking access to food, water and health services – as a method of war.” (BBC) This is a clear example of the military tactic of targeting civilians previously discussed. Furthermore, in August 2013 the Syrian government used chemical weapons against their citizens (Syrian and Russia contend that it was rebels who conducted this attack and used the weapons.) According to the BBC, “Facing the prospect of US military intervention, President Assad agreed to the complete removal or destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal as part of a joint mission led by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The destruction of chemical agents and munitions was completed a year later.” (BBC)

The result of the escalating violence turned civil war has been the worst refugee crisis in modern history. “In December 2014, the UN launched an appeal for $8.4bn (£5.6bn) to provide help to 18 million Syrians, after only securing about half the funding it asked for in 2014. By a year later, it was less than half funded. (BBC) The UNDP report, “Syria, Alienation and Violence: Impact of Syria Crisis Report 2014,” estimate the total economic loss since the start of the conflict was $202bn and that four in every five Syrians were now living in poverty – 30% of them in abject poverty. Syria’s education, health and social welfare systems are also in a state of collapse. (UNDP)

What we have seen in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis is that although there are systems and conventions, which states have instituted and agreed to abide, there is resistance to living up to these conventions in practice. Following the November 2015 terror attacks on Paris, the American media and many political leaders began trying to institute policies that would enact a ban on Syrian refugees and prevent them from being resettled in the United States. At the time of this writing, 31 of the 50 United States of America have declared that they “are not accepting” refugees from Syria. (Fantz and Brumfield CNN) Although, according to the Refugee Convention, and thus international law, it is illegal to refuse protection to those individuals.

In Europe, there are several policies that affect the entrance and establishment of refugees into Europe. In 1985 the Schengen Agreement created the Schengen Area, which established free movement within this defined area between states, free of border controls and cooperate visa regulations. This matters because once an individual can make it into the boundaries of that area; they are guaranteed freedom of movement between states. Another is the Dublin Regulation, which establishes which state has the responsibility to evaluate an asylum application as well as have the responsibility or financing operations necessary for transportation of the individual. The major criticism of the Dublin Regulation is that it places undue stress on the state where the migrant/refugee enters, which tends to be the southern states (Greece, Italy and Hungary) and the northern states do not share the burden.

The summer of 2015 marked the beginning of the European refugee crisis—when the numbers of refugees to Europe peaked and tragedies of people’s attempts to reach Europe, such as drowning via boats traveling across the Mediterranean Sea, became frequent stories in the media. Syrian refugees account for 52% of the refugees arriving. Due to this crisis, we have seen Europe offering cash transfers to Turkey in order to prevent refugees from continuing on to Europe. Four-fifths of refugees to Europe arrive through Turkey, in 2015 alone, 615,000 people arrived through Turkey. (Bajekal)

 

How can I help?

Helping for this issue can be quite tricky. Most governments have issued warnings advising people from traveling to Syria due to the instability and high risk of danger. Major American organizations which are there operating, to which you could contact or donate include:

 

Large International Organizations include:

Doctors Without Borders is providing medical care and search-and-rescue support to people crossing the Mediterranean and at reception centers in Europe.Find out more about Doctors Without Borders and how you can help here.

The World Food Programme is providing food vouchers for over a million refugees in countries including Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. However, a recentlack of funding has forced serious cutbacks, and hundreds of thousands have lost their benefits. Find out more about the World Food Programme and how you can help here.

The United Nations Refugee Agency is providing lifesaving aid to refugees in a variety of countries across the Middle East and Europe. Find out more about the UNHCR and how you can help here.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is involved with helping refugees and migrants in a number of countries and provides for basic needs such as shelter and medical assistance. Find out more about The Red Cross and Red Crescent and how you can help here.

The International Rescue Committee provides basic needs including safe drinking water and sanitation to migrants and refugees who are in urgent need.Find out more about The International Rescue Committee and how you can help here.

World Vision brings clean water, hygiene kits, basic household items, cash assistance and other critical basic needs to families in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq to help prevent them from having to make the dangerous journey to Europe.Find out more about World Vision and how you can help here. 

The Migrant Offshore Aid Station is a group that works to protect people trying to escape from North Africa to Europe by way of the Mediterranean Sea. Find out more about the Migrant Offshore Aid Station and how you can help here.

For smaller, community based organizations where you may get to participate more directly or see a more direct result of your contributions. Check out these groups:
  • Syrian American Medical Society provides medical treatment on the ground in southern Syria as well as for refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. It was ranked as a Silver-level participant on Guidestar’s Exchange, and its 2013 annual report states that only one one cent of every dollar went to administrative costs.
  • Karam Foundation is a Chicago-based charity that operates out of Turkey to raise funds for rebuilding schools in Syria and securing educational opportunities for Syrian children.
  • Sunrise USA is a U.S.-based nonprofit established in 2011 to provide emergency-relief programs to Syrians, both internally displaced and refugees abroad. They deliver food, support education, establish trauma-care facilities, and facilitate orphan sponsorships.
  • Islamic Relief USA is a larger nonprofit that’s very reputable. It provides food, clothing, housing necessities and medicine for refugees in neighboring countries. To support these efforts, specify “Syrian Humanitarian Aid” as the designated country on the donation page.
  • Project Amal Ou Salaam is a grassroots initiative — not a U.S.-based charity — that Jordanian friends speak highly of. It sponsors schools in Syria, Jordan and Turkey; it also organizes arts, drama, sports and photography workshops for refugees in and outside of Syria. The organization says that all the funds it raises directly supports refugee children.
  • Refugee 613  is an organization in Ottawa, Candada, that is begining to create a network of people who are willing to befriend, host and help refugees acclimate to Ottawa. They are also partnering with a charity named “Helping with Furniture” to collect furniture and other household goods for newly arriving families. http://www.refugee613.ca/

Don’t see any organiation here that you feel is addressing how you want to contribute? Start your own organization! If you live near a place where refugees are going to be re-settled, start a group that will collect items needed for incoming families like Refugee 613. Make support groups, get a fundraiser going at with your church, work friends or school community.

Millions of deaths a year… by water

Water-borne diseases

In a world with technology such as phone that can talk to you and give you driving directions, or when you can tell your television what show to display, how can it be that 1.5 million children under the age of five die from diarrhea each year? This equates to 1 child dying every 21 seconds. (Water.org)

Diarrhea and water-borne diseases are the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in developing countries. (WHO/UNICEF 2000) More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes. (WHO 2008) The WHO attributes 88% of diarrheal disease to unsafe water supply, inadequate sanitation and hygiene.

During the Industrial revolution, New York, London and Pairs were the centers of such infectious diseases. Child death rates were just as high during that time as they are now in Sub-Saharan Africa due to the sanitation and lack of clean water. (water.org) If such advancements can be made in the industrialized countries of the world, why are developing countries being ignored when this is such as simple problem with a simple fix?

Accessibility to clean water

Accessibility is a huge issue, in India; middle class families have access to tap water. For families living in slums, since the state refuses to provide sanitation, electricity or water services to these habitats, people are forced to get their water from a communal tap. This water is only available for about 4 hours a day. Women, being the primary person responsible for the cooking, cleaning, and washing for the family, have the burden of acquiring the water. This translates into traveling long distances to obtain the water, waiting in long lines, paying an exhorbinate rate and then carrying a long distance back home. These efforts decrease the amount of time women can dedicate to income-generating activities and household tasks. When children are old enough to take over this task, it takes away from their time in school as well. After all that work, the water is oftentimes not even clean. India ranks 120 out of 122 countries on the quality of potable water. In Delhi’s Manglapui slums, there are only two working pipes for over 2000 residents to share. (Desai) In Mumbai, 62% of the city population lives in slums; meaning 62% of the population is sharing such communal pipes as well as the amount of water capable of being distributed.

The second issue to clean water access is sanitation services. World wide, less than 1 in 3 persons have access to a toilet. In slums, where the populations are so dense, and there are no toilets, people must relieve themselves wherever they can. In Mumbai, the slum of Kaula Bandar, 14% of residents relieve themselves in the ocean, 59% use a pay toilet while 40% of the public toilets don’t function. (PUKAR)

Open defecation, sometimes even near water sources is a common practice of the majority of the slum population, due to the fact that the state does not allow for these services to be provided to slum neighborhoods. 

Water Handling

Research has shown that after collection, lack of hygiene practices and understanding about how disease spreads, contributes to the spread of water-borne diseases. PUKAR, Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action and Research a Mumbai- based research collective tested the stored water after collection and found alarming rates of contamination which they found occurred after the water was brought home. 52% of water collected in the summer and 76% of samples collected during monsoon season contained fecal bacteria. With the lack of sanitation facilities, and not practicing washing hands frequently, people get exposed to other’s excrement and spread contamination.

 Solutions

The most effective solution would be that the government provides the basic services of water access and sanitation facilities to their citizens. In the absence of such action, there are two very simple solutions which were comprised by the World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and dubbed the “Safe Water System.” First, people must stop collecting their water in a container with a wide rim. This wide rim allows for people to dip their hands into the container, which contributes to contamination. A container with a narrower rim (so that people cannot insert their hands) must be used. Second, a chlorine solution to disinfect water at home and prevent contamination is available to purchase for an extremely low cost. This combined approach has shown a decrease of diarrhea infection by 50%. (PUKAR)

NGOs and other micro lending organizations have stepped up to begin improving services for the residents of such areas absent, government intervention. Micro lending organizations have provided small loans for household water connections and/or toilets. Other private companies such as Sarvajal have created solar-powered water ATMs for the slums. These water ATMs dispense water 24/7 and are accessed by a prepaid card, much like disposable mobile phones.

The fact that over 4,000 children die a day due to lack of clean water is abominable, and governments need to step and start providing services. In the mean time, we should all should contribute to building awareness and problem solving to help all have access to clean water, which is a universal human right.

Visit www.water.org and click on GET INVOLVED to learn more and see what actions you can take in your life to help end this problem. You can organize fundraisers, share pictures and information via social media and even donate. The price to provide water for a family for a year is really small, only $25!!

There are so many organizations working towards this is so many ways, I’m going to have to do a separate post just for them, so that will be coming soon!

Consumerism for charity: Check out Satya jewlery to purchase pieces that contribute money to specific causes. Their Oasis Necklace is their piece that donates money to water.org. http://www.satyajewelry.com/oasis-necklace.html// It costs $88 and $40 of it goes directly towards the organization.

If you are a big Amazon customer, you can set your home page to Amazon Smile and pick a charity you wish to donate to. A portion of all purchases that are eligible that you make through the page Amazon Smile goes towards the organization, water.org is one organization you can choose. Usually if the purchase is Amazon Prime eligible, it qualifies for a donation. This is at no extra charge, so you can contribute to the organization just by doing shopping you would normally be doing.

 

 

We are all mothers

I understood conceptually the importance of the mother/child relationship, but it wasn’t until I had my own children, that the horror of suffering and disenfranchisement that many around the world live in became a tangible feeling in my chest and my gut. The wrenching feeling of watching a child drinking brown water from a polluted river, because they had no other option, the terror a mother must feel at hearing gunshots, or bombs erupting in the night while their child holds them, knowing that they were at risk. The hallow, almost lightheaded feeling of imagining the physical pain or disfigurement a child experiences for no reason other than man’s un-relenting need for more. More power, more control, more money more resources, more everything. That desire for more which concentrates the power, money, and resources in the hands of a powerful few, and leaves nothing for the masses.

There are countless struggles going on throughout the world today. Wars, famine, disease and other forms of suffering are common day occurrences for much of the world’s population. So much so, that we have come to accept it as normal. But this state of existence is not normal, it is man-made and therefore we have the power to make it different, to make change in our systems, structures and lives.

Children are the biggest victim within these circumstances because they have no control over the circumstances they are brought into, they have no social power (generally speaking) to spark change, and are subject to their surroundings. As the “grown-ups” it is our responsiblity to provide them with as safe a world as possible. When we look at “mother” as a verb, it is defined as “the art of bringing up a child with care and affection.” In this sense, we are all mothers, seeking to enhance a child’s life with care and affection, even when they are not biologically born to you. When we all contribute to our community, both locally and globally, and seek to leave a positive mark where we have been, we are caring for the generations what will come after us.

Sometimes it can feel overwhelming. When such negativity and sadness seem so prevelant, where do we start? How do we start? How can we, as individuals who are so small, really make a difference in a world so large? But it is possible. You don’t have to change entire policial systems or global policies, but can make an impact and improve the conditions of other individuals and enact posistive change in the world. This blog is dedicated to not only provided data and background knowledge on global issues around the world, but also to give you an opportunity to learn specific ways you can help, or contribute to helping those in the situation. Each entry will include links to organizations or people who are actively involved in bettering a situation who you can contact and get involved with if you feel so moved. Because you can make a difference. Because you can enact change.

Because we are all mothers.