Education for Children

Discussions revealed that what people wanted was to lead a life of dignity and  respect and the parameters for measuring these were access to food, water, sanitation  and education. Getting children into school was the first major challenge that the  organization took on. The organization members along with the representatives of the slum clusters met with and persuaded the authorities to give 500 children  admission to the local government schools. (Education for Children) This seemed  like a miracle to the people of the slum clusters and they whole heartedly committed  themselves to the process that the organization was trying to initiate, coming  together as a group. 

Another major problem faced by the people was their dependence on moneylenders  who exploited their poverty and charged exorbitant rates of interest, sometimes  going as far as to usurp a person’s tenement in return for an unpaid loan. In 1993, an  initiative called Mahila Ekta Kosh (Women Unity Fund) was started with women  putting in Rs.10 per week into their account to build some kind of savings. This  initiative ran successfully for 10-12 years and it helped hundreds of women to  liberate from the clutches of money lenders. Apart from the obvious financial  benefits, it also helped in empowering the women and increasing their participation  in other aspects of the organization’s work. 

Efforts were also made simultaneously to get water, electricity and toilets and to deal  with corrupt ration dealers etc. In every case, the aim was not just to solve the  immediate problem, but to create awareness about urban governance — the existing  norms, provisions, rights and entitlements, and to bring people together to address  the issue on their own without being dependent on any outside agency. Measures for  perspective building, and towards eliminating gender bias and prejudices against  people from other castes, regions and religions were always integrated into the  process. 

The slums in Delhi, as in other urban centers, are clusters of dwellings of poor  migrant workers and their families who come to the city to earn a living. In 1982,  before the Asian Games, the contractors brought in 10 lakh (1 million) workers into  the city for development and beautification projects. In the following years,  migration has been on the rise owing to lack of sources of livelihood in rural areas.  While the first master plan for Delhi (made in 1962) included space within the city  for the poor, in recent decades, rising real estate prices and changing policies of the  government made the slum dweller more vulnerable. While the services of informal  sector workers (domestic workers, construction workers, rickshaw pullers etc) were  still required, their right to living space and basic resources was questioned. From  2000-2006, aided by court orders, around 350 slums, many that had been in existence.

for decades, were demolished in the name of making the city clean and more  beautiful. Meanwhile, the rehabilitation procedure was made so complicated that  roughly two thirds of the families were left homeless, the others being given plots in  locations very far from their sources of livelihood. A survey done by the Ministry of  Housing and Poverty Alleviation in 2011 says that one in five persons living in Delhi  is a slum dweller. There are 3,133 slums in the city, 1,058 of them registered, with  31.63 lakh (3.16 million) people living in them.