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Emergence of Slums

The figures relating to urban population living in slums are not accurately available. However it is commonly accepted that nearly 1/5th of the total urban population in India lies in slums.

The task force on Housing and Slum development appointed by the Planning Commission of India estimated that nearly 23 % or over 3 crores persons as the urban slum dwellers in India. The proportion of the slum dwellers increase with the size of the urban population. Cities with less than one lakh population have 17.5%; cities with the population between one lakh and 10 lakhs have 21.5 % and cities having more than 10 lakhs of population have 35.5% slum dwellers in the total population. The four metropolitan cities have around 50% of the total population living in slums by now.

The National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi has recorded that the emergence of slums is essentially the product of three forces

  • Demographic dynamism of a city attracting more people from the rural areas offering greater potential for employment.
  • Its incapacity to meet the rising demand for housing
  • The existing urban land policies that prohibit the access of the poor to the urban land market.

The urban poor are left with no choice but to make or take shelter illegally on any available piece of land. A slum is the consequence of blight in the old parts of the city. The magnitude of the problem of slums is alarming.

The government of India for purposes of the implementation of various schemes relation to urban development has defined a slum area as follows: A slum area means any area where such dwellings predominate which by reason of dilapidation, over crowding, faulty management and design of buildings, narrowness and faulty arrangement of streets, lack of ventilation, lack of sanitation facilities, inadequacy of open spaces and community facilities or any combination of these factors are detrimental to safety, health or morale. These slum areas are also referred to as the blighted area, renewal area, gray area, and lower income area. Michael Harington says that in the face of rapid industrial-urban growth in the technologically advanced and capitalistic country like the USA also there are such slums that at times are referred to as the other America.

Main Characteristics of Slums
Dilapidated and poor houses in slums are made of poor design and scrap materials. These are often raised on unauthorized land.

High density of population and housing leads to over crowding and congestion; one room is often used for all practices purposes of domesticating living.
Lack of public utilities and facilities such as drainage, sanitation, water taps, electric lights are widely observable characteristics of slums.

The slum dwellers are functionally integrated with the mainstream of the city life yet the high incidence of deviant behavior such as crime, juvenile delinquency, prostitution, drug use, beggary and other social evils are associated with slum areas. It does not mean that all those residing in slums are necessarily associated with such deviant behavior. The slum areas socially and physically provide greater opportunity for such kinds of deviant behavior.

Though the slum dwellers are functionally integrated to the city life, apathy and social isolation characterize a slum. It means that largely, slums are subject to neglect and apathy of the larger community. These areas are looked down upon and considered inferior.

In India, the slums are usually classified into the following three categories:

  • The old building that have become dilapidated and deteriorated in course of time.
  • The slums that are characterized by poor and inadequate housing conditions constructed legally around mills and factories.
  • The slums that illegally come up in different parts of the city through unauthorized occupation of open land.