16 April 2021 07:00 PM

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SHIVANI SINGH | 7 MAY, 2017

The Never- Ending Plight of the Urban Poor


NEW DELHI: “I got married at a young age and barely received any education. My day begins at 5 in the morning as I have to finish my chores and travel from Mandawali to Shakarpur. If I get delayed then I miss out on the fresher stock of vegetables which hampers my sales throughout the day. I’m happy to earn a few thousand rupees a month and support my family,” smiled Saroj as she continued to haggle with another customer.

Saroj is among the many vegetable vendors in the Laxmi Nagar market who flock the streets for their livelihood. She admits that if she wasn’t poor she wouldn’t have to discontinue her education but the Government does not consider her poor.

The Economic Survey of Delhi 2016-17 defined poverty as, “A situation where the individual or communities lack the resources, ability and environment to meet the basic needs of life.”

If the Delhi Statistical Handbook, 2016 is to be believed then only 9.91% of the population in the National Capital Territory (NCT) fell below the poverty line in 2011-12. Currently, the daily per capita expenditure limits to fall below the rural and urban poverty lines are Rs. 27 and Rs. 33 respectively. Surviving on less than Rs. 1134 per capita per month in the national capital could be a nightmare for many.

This figure is comparatively better than most parts of the nation yet it amounts to several lakh people with unfulfilled basic daily needs.

About half of Delhi’s population allegedly resides in jhuggis (slums). A report on the Urban Slums in Delhi by the Government of NCT of Delhi published in February, 2015 recognised the existence of 6343 slums in Delhi.

These slums are home to 10.2 lakh households with inadequate water supply, broken down or non-existent toilets and a highly ineffective waste management system. Living conditions in most slums are pitiful and highly unsafe in terms of health and hygiene as well as security. Restructuring these settlements is a slow and tedious process which is quite often conflict-ridden. The current state government’s report on the projects for Basic Services to Urban Poor disclosed a Rs. 469 crore reduction in the housing schemes for slum dwellers under JNNURM.

People from the all across the country flock to Delhi for better education or in search of employment opportunities. The 66th Round of the National Sample Survey Office in 2011-12 depicted that only 33.39% of the total population was employed. Although the unemployment rate comprised 1.56% of the total workforce, one-third of Delhi was supposedly sustaining the other two-thirds.

The 2011 Census indicated that 23% increase in Delhi’s population was caused due to migration. Delhi experienced about 1.7 million net migrants during 1991-2001. Most of these were from neighbouring states. According to the Perceptions Survey 2013 by the Institute for Human Development, 47% of Delhi’s migrants are from Uttar Pradesh and 31% are from Bihar.

While many succeed in amply providing for themselves most migrants just manage to subsist. Salim and his wife migrated to this metropolis about 20 years back from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. They’ve been selling vegetables on the streets of Laxmi Nagar ever since. “Supporting a family of six seemed impossible in this city hence my children stayed in Gorakhpur with their relatives. About 8 years ago, my eldest daughter was married off in the village as I could not afford to educate her any further. After struggling for several years I have finally been able to rent a shop in the Shakarpur market. Now I can educate my other 3 children”, he said with a hopeful smile.

The Delhi Metro is arguably one of the finest contemporary advancements that the capital-dwellers take pride in flaunting. Not only do the metro projects employ migrant labourers but their many pillars also serve as shelter to the homeless. Stations across the violet metro line in Jangpura, Okhla are one among many such sites.

Poverty alleviation programmes such as the Swarna Jayanti Shahri Rozgar Yojna and the Urban Basic Services Project by Centre and State governments work for the upliftment of the urban poor. “Corrupt officials and failure to execute these programmes on a wider scale is a major problem,” said Rakesh Kumar, a tea-seller near the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station.

“I came to Delhi 6 months back looking for a job but my 12th pass certificate has no value. I’m not allowed to sell tea in this area but I do this in order to make a living and send some money to my family”, he concluded while scurrying away from the approaching policeman.

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