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Local Welfare in a Global Context: Slums and Urban Welfare in Karnataka's Development

By Pushpa Achanta

November 29, 2009
The author is a freelance writer, a Fellow of Citizen News Service (CNS) Writers' Bureau, and a community volunteer based in Bangalore, India. Website:

In September 2006, CIVIC ( organized the above public meeting in Bangalore with Dr. Supriya Roy Chowdhuri, Professor ISEC, Bangalore ( and Mr. Narayanswamy, Joint Director, Karnataka Slum Clearance Board (KSCB).

The former shared findings from ISEC's National Foundation of India (NFI) supported 2007 project on the Impact of Globalization on Slums and Urban Poor in Karnataka. It highlights globalization's impact and NGO's/CSO's role in reducing disparity especially in Bangalore which expanded rapidly since the 1990's through the Information Technology and Biotechnology industries.

Although Bangalore's economy grew with the knowledge sectors, semi-skilled/unskilled people find minimal jobs. From the mid 1980's, in urban Karnataka: Small scale industries' manufacturing jobs reduced PSU's started closing since the 1990's or began hiring contractors.

The voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) and similar policies increased unemployed and semi-skilled numbers. In 21 class I cities, population decreased but poor increased ISEC's 1973 poverty and employment ratios survey in 11 Bangalore slums and 1990 repetition in 8 found child and coolie labour increasing from 30% to 36% and 26% to 30% respectively and clerical jobs decreasing from 13% to 11%. Studying housing, livelihood, education, health, etc. in 380 households across 6 settlements (including 5 'legalized' ones) in J.C. Nagar, Bangalore through direct questions and focus group discussions in 2007 revealed: Education, development levels vary widely with no specific job or economic clusters in a ward Some residents are partly integrated into Bangalore's economy Occupations: garbage pickers, 26.1 % coolies, 26.5% self-employed (plumbers, mobile/stationary vendors, etc.).

Women - housemaids, cooks, nannies, etc. 52.6 % of the poorest/unskilled earned between Rs. 1386-3372 Poverty Ratio: Ramanna Garden - 80%, Papanna Garden - 58%, Average: Bangalore - 56% Karnataka - 26%. Some facts about 2 of the settlements surveyed K.S. Garden Least Below Poverty Line (BPL) cases Employment: some in NGO/government/private sector getting Rs. 6000-12000/month and benefits (receptionists, drivers, etc.); other and skilled labour - 33.6%, low income - 52.3% 'Push factor' - a male relative was a government employee or individuals acquired technical/English skills privately Fringe population - unskilled, aged, alcohol/drug addicts, infirm Cement Huts High poverty ratio Jobs: rag pickers for 70-80 years earning Rs. 3000-4000 monthly through wholesalers or individuals getting Rs. 1500. Women - 80% aged 40-70 married within the slum and rag pickers nearby or in Chikpete earning Rs. 1800/month. (Ironically, this is the heart of the city beside the Labour Commissioners's erstwhile office).

Around 20 households revealed that their lives remained unchanged for 2 decades. NGO's Mythri and Waste-Wise's education and vocational training to about 100 families increased their monthly income from Rs.1000 to Rs. 1600. 28% of Bangalore's slum dwellers especially young unmarried women toil long hours in the garment and electronics/electrical factories in hazardous conditions earning below Rs. 2300/month (minimum wage). Such unregulated, capital intensive and mainly export oriented industries exploit the urban poor. Urban Karnataka has less access to credit through Self Help Groups than rural areas or other Indian states although this does not deter them from self-employment as they cannot afford joblessness. Further, government schemes focus on education, sanitation rather than employment generation while most poor people prefer jobs over handouts. Housing campaigns have only provided a "roof over poverty."

Mr. Narayanaswamy with merely 9-10 months in his present role stated that:

- Before 2006, NSDP and HUDCO were the only slum development schemes unlike the JNNURM which has BSUP and SJSRY for training and employment.
- Residents of Bangalore's areas like Sanyasikunte or Sanitorium may struggle for jobs but NGO's could help such cases
- Only notified slums qualify for welfare schemes - those located on 'illegal' land are unrecognized
- Among Bangalore's 540 settlements with 2 lakh households, 200 are notified. Ragigudda in southern Bangalore, the largest, is still under dispute.

KSCB's staff shortage (only 5 AE's city wide) is slowing attempts to legalize the rest - it requests NGO's to assist its efforts. Many slum dwellers use private healthcare as Primary Health Centres (PHC's), anganwaadis, etc. are ineffective or unavailable.

Also, government hospitals often demand money for 'free/discounted' services. Most government schools' poor standard denies them basic education. Only settlements like K.S. Garden where NGO's like Mythri run an anganwaadi or others, having free tutoring centres benefit. Minimal access to education, livelihood, healthcare and critical developmental schemes precipitates problems in slums. Despite lessening starvation, small jobs don't improve the socio-economic condition. Residents are disillusioned as politicians have rarely helped - some boycotted the 2004 parliamentary elections. While most slum residents know the various government schemes/benefits available to them like Bhagyalakshmi ( ), BPL card, etc. they can rarely access them without NGO/CBO intervention.

Posted on: November 29, 2009 09:52 AM IST


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