Slums are increasing in Himachal Pradesh

Y.S. RANA , HAMIRPUR –(HP)— Despite government strategy to make India ‘slum-free cities’ by 2020, the number of towns having slums has gone up during the last decade and Himachal Pradesh is no exception, reveals in the recent bulletin of the National Cooperative Housing Federation of India (NCHF). It states that the number of towns having slums has gone up from 1743 in 2001 to 2613 in 2011 out of a total of 4041 towns across the country.

It also substantiates by the Economic Analysis of States which reported that 42 per cent towns of the State have slums population. Kangra Valley has the maximum number of slums in the state. It has reported slums in 22 towns out of 56 statutory towns with slums population of 61,312 compared to 65 per cent towns across the country having slums over 65 million.

However, there is a relief for the state government as Himachal Pradesh along with Chandigarh has reported slum population’s share less than one per cent. “The proportion of slum population to urban population has fallen slightly with the slum population growing at a slower pace than urban areas as a whole,” states the report.

While Punjab has reported slums in 78 towns out of 143 statutory towns with 14.60 lakh slumdwellers compared to Haryana having slums in 75 towns of the 80 statutory towns in the state with 16.62 lakh slum population. In 2011, slum population share of Haryana was 2.5 per cent compared to Punjab’s of 2.2 per cent in total slum population of the country against 3.2 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively in 2001, thus showing a decline in slum population.                   

Not only this many cities across the country are the visible manifestation of urban poverty despite a number of government’s strategies and are figured by low levels of productivity which keep slumdwellers at subsistence or below subsistence levels while the government has prepared strategy ‘National Urban Poverty Reduction Programme’ (2010-2020) to make India slum-free cities.

The official of the Himachal Urban Development Authority (HIMUDA) said that the state government has initiated eight projects under Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme (IHSDP) with a total cost of Rs 7203.89 lakh to provide adequate shelter and basic infrastructure to 1954 slum-dwellers of towns in Dharamsala, Solan, Hamirpur, Parwanoo, Baddi, Nalagarh, Sundernagar and Sarkaghat.

It also paints a bleak picture of ‘cities slums’ across the country. Almost all the houses in slums are in bad and dilapidated conditions. Private toilets do not exist in majority of slums and even common toilets are available on to a few and where available generally remain filthy, stinking and in insanitary.

It also states that Scheduled Castes (SCs) are over-represented in slums, with one out of every five slums residents belongs to SC. The proportion of SCs living in slums has risen over the last decade. “Government alone cannot effectively resolve the multi-farious problems of slums rather people’s participation is absolutely necessary in all the urban poverty alleviation programmes so that the development reaches specifically to the beneficiaries.

Therefore, the new strategy should be to organize multi-purpose urban cooperatives in slum settlements, suggested the report. The mechanism of cooperative could be a solution because individuals come together to achieve their objectives as a collective group what they cannot achieve as an individual. Because of high price of land and housing and low purchasing power, the urban poor were forced to join the existing slums for cheap shelter or to occupy any vacant land, stated the report.

The slums are reality of today and cities are collective future of human beings. We should take collective responsibility for their future development.

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