Busting of Urban Advantage Myth

An Indian Slum

Urban advantage over rural India is something that we Indians have assumed and lived with for decades. It has always been assumed that cities have better access to services like education, health, sanitation and drinking water as compared to the rural India which always conjured up the images of poverty and hunger. But a closer look at the situation will tell a rupture in this urban myth in recent years. India is experiencing the phenomenon of ‘urbanization of poverty’. Indian cities are growing at a rapid pace and hordes of people are flocking to cities in search of livelihoods everyday but a vast majority of them have no option but to stay in slums. As per the census 2011, 17% of Indian population in urban areas lives in slums which are the biggest example of life of deprivation. Life in slums is generally a life deprived of decent housing, quality education, sanitation facilities and clean drinking water.  Housing in slums is characterized by, lack of land titles, insecure tenure and threats of eviction.  The urban areas do provide proximity to the services like education and health but for the urban poor this proximity does not get translated into access. Under nutrition is a major challenge for urban poor as they fare worse than average Indians on important nutrition indicators.  As per the NFHS-3 data 54.2 % of children under five years of age were stunted as compared to the figure of 48% of overall India. In the same vein 5.1 % of children under five years of age among urban poor were severely anemic as compared to the 2.9% proportion for entire India.

As per census 2011, about 40% of the urban population is below 18 years old. These children are the biggest possibility for India. But unfortunately our cities are ruthless for the vulnerable urban child. According to a 2007 study undertaken by the Ministry of Women and Child Development on child abuse which covered 2317 street children as respondents across 26 districts of 12 states from different zones of the country more than 65% of children reported physical abuse by the family and others.

Another category of children who are really deprived and vulnerable in urban areas are the children who work as domestic helps. Comprehensive violation of rights of these children is something that should shake the soul of each one of us but this is a stark reality which is crying to get adequate attention of policy makers, civil society and other stakeholders. Street Child is another category of children who are continuously denied their basic rights stipulated in the UNCRC[1] to which India is a signatory.

Urban areas are the drivers of Indian economy. By 2040-50, urban India will constitute a 50% share in the total population of the country. Also, its share in India’s GDP will grow to 75% by 2030.Urbanization as a process is the biggest opportunity for present and future generations to eradicate the evils of poverty and misery but at the same time in the event of lack of planning and effective policies urbanization can become a major challenge for the generations to come.  There is a need to understand the process of urbanization and design strategies and mechanisms to ensure that it becomes a process of good especially so, for the vulnerable populations like children.

[1] United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child

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About farrukh2016

Farrukh Shah is a passionate knowledge management professional in development sector. He loves to read and write on development issues. He believes in the power of knowledge and action to bring a lasting change in the lives of most vulnerable among us.
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