URBAN POOR

When Cyclone Michaung-induced floods hit the resettlement colonies of Perumbakkam, the houses on the ground floor were quickly inundated. On a priority basis, persons with disabilities were allocated houses on the ground floor. However, with the floods, their vulnerability pushed them further to the fringes. They were forced to climb stairs seeking refuge in other people's homes that already had leaky roofs and damp walls. This was not the first time people in resettlement colonies in Perumbakkam or Semmencherry were facing floods. Almost every year, November and December are months of struggle for the families, who are evicted and resettled…

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"There isn't much garbage coming to the landfill now," says Rahim, 36, a waste picker working in the vicinity of Bhalswa. "Earlier, we would retrieve e-waste alone worth 500-700 rupees, but now it's dwindled to a mere 150-200 rupees." Saira Banu, 40, another waste picker, says "Whatever waste gets dumped these days, the trucks pick them up at night, leaving almost nothing for us. It's no longer as profitable as it used to be in the past years." Saira has been working for over two decades around Bhalswa. "I used to come here from Jahangirpuri to collect waste before marriage,…

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The Gruha Lakshmi scheme was supposed to be the crowning glory of the Congress government's five guarantees scheme. But for lakhs of women in the state, the scheme has not yet borne fruit. Under the policy, female heads of household in low-income families can receive Rs 2,000 per month to supplement their income. The scheme was formally launched in August last year, but several women had not yet received the benefits. Who are eligible? Women who are heads of their household and have a BPL (below poverty line), APL (above poverty line) or Antyodaya card issued by the Karnataka Department…

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In a major development with long-term implications, the Maharashtra government on December 20, 2023 permitted sale or renting out of Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) housing on completion of five years after allotment. Earlier, it could be sold only after ten years. This amendment was unanimously supported by policymakers across all political parties. Incidentally, earlier when the state government had considered cutting the lock-in period to just three years, it met up with strong opposition from its law and judiciary department, which felt that it would lead to ‘profiteering’ by free tenement allottees.  Housing minister Atul Save also admitted in the…

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At 51 years, N C Bhatra, a migrant labourer in Chennai, finds the 20-hour train journey to his hometown in Puri, Odisha, arduous and costly. So much so that he has limited his trips home to see his wife and two children to just one or two times a year. Bhatra had migrated from Puri to Chennai in 1996. Reserving a ticket in the sleeper coach was much easier then, he says. But over the past five years, he has never been able to book tickets directly as they get sold out much faster.  “To get a ticket nowadays, I…

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BMC takes steps to tackle rising air pollution As air pollution in the city worsens by the day, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has introduced new measures. The BMC has recently imposed a ban on the open burning of garbage. In a press conference, Guardian minister, Deepak Kesarkar, said that the BMC had issued notices to 6,000 construction sites, instructing them to install fogging machines and sprinklers to control air pollution. He also informed that the BMC is in the process of implementing waste segregation procedures at its two landfills in Deonar and Kanjurmarg, focusing on the extraction of pollutants…

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Akbar Hussain, a 60-year-old who lives with his wife inside the Koyambedu bus stand, waits in line amidst tens of labourers in Koyambedu for his turn to be called for work. "If I come and stand in this line, there is a chance of me finding a job for the day and there is also a certainty that I will find food for me and my wife," he says. A native of Kallakuruchi, Akbar was working in a tea shop until COVID-19. As the tea shop was closed during the pandemic, Akbar and his wife found it difficult to make…

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Chennai has long been guilty of excluding marginalised communities from the scope of its flagship projects such as Singara Chennai. Explaining this historical marginalisation process, the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC), in its ‘Urban October Campaign’ says that historically, marginalised communities settled near water bodies in Chennai, as these were the only available lands that were neither in demand nor in possession of affluent communities. Forcibly dislocating marginalised and vulnerable families from their places of habitation to the city margins, without exploring possibilities of relocation near their existing sites of residence, is an act of…

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In a recent development, the State Education Department issued a directive to all regional deputy directors of education and district education officers. They are tasked with identifying and consolidating small schools within their respective jurisdictions by October 15, aiming to integrate them into larger schools as part of the 'cluster school' initiative. If realised, this program will entail approximately 200,000 students commuting considerable distances to access education. While this initiative has been in the planning stages for several months, its core objective is to improve the quality of education. This would be achieved by exposing students to a larger peer…

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Keeping the slum dwellers at the core of its planning, the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme was initially conceptualised way back in 1995. With about half the Mumbai's population living in informal settlements, the SRA scheme is critical for ensuring better quality housing for all Mumbaikars. The city has about 2149 SRA projects, involving 5,29,434 proposed tenements and 2,49,887 tenements already handed over to people. As we saw in the first part of this series, the buildings are poorly maintained and affecting the not just quality of life but also causing extreme stress to the residents due to various issues.…

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