Bereft of facilities, residents of private slums look to govt for aid

BBMP Bengaluru Slums

Every month,  agent of ‘owner’  collects money

Residents of private slums are looking to the government for assistance as their living conditions are deteriorating.

The slum-dwellers, mostly migrants from north India, say the tiny houses they live in are in a poor condition. The Observer noticed that houses consist of 10 feet x 13 feet single rooms. Their roofs are covered with plastic covers and banners. In the absence of washrooms, the residents use public toilets.

Laxmi Naik, who resides in the Thuperellipalyam slum in Marathahalli, informed The Observer: “I am originally from Uttar Pradesh. I came to Bengaluru for work. There was no place for us to stay. So we ended up here. The room is really small and we pay Rs 1,500 a month.”

Ningamma, a daily wage earner living in the Thuperellipalyam slum, said: “I have been here for quite a long time. We are here to work, so we don’t expect any luxuries. Neither we nor any of our family members is a resident of Bengaluru, so we do not have BPL cards and are ineligible for government housing. Most of the people in other slums (government-recognized slums) didn’t allow us to live there, so we ended up here. Yes, the situation here is terrible, but we cannot do anything. I don’t want anything other than a better life for my children.”

Laxmamma, who lives in the Pantharapalya slum in Nayandahalli, said: “We pay Rs 2,000 to the agents of our owner. Last year, some officials approached us and offered to help us by allotting houses. But they asked us to talk with our owner once. We don’t even know who our owner is, so how can we talk to him? An agent comes and collects the money. We only know that much.”

Other residents of the Marathahalli slum informed The Observer that they do not have access to water. They have to walk to a nearby school or use borewells. Most of the women living in the slums have no knowledge of sanitary pads.

A study on the state of slums in Bengaluru by Duke’s University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and Omidyar Network has uncovered startling discrepancies in official data. The city has over 2,000 slums, but the government recognizes only 597 under the Karnataka Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1973. As per the survey, the poorest slums need toilets and drinking water. The better-off slums require waste management and employment training.

Balaraju N.P., technical director of the Karnataka Slum Development Board, said: “As of now, the BBMP or any other government agency can only arrange for them to be visited since we have no rights in regard to private slums; only the owner does. In order to provide benefits to residents, the government wants to pass a law to hand over control of private land owners to the government or BBMP. We are waiting for the government’s approval to develop private slums for the welfare of residents.”

As per a survey conducted by the Karnataka Slum Development Board, there are 597 slums in Bengaluru with an estimated population of about 40.50 lakh — 22.56% of the state’s urban population. Only 387 slums are notified in Bengaluru under the Karnataka Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act.

Rajendran Prabhakar, executive director of Maargha, an NGO, said: “Slum-dwellers living in private slums are mostly migrants from various states of the country. Currently, there is no law regarding people living in private slums, so the government can’t do anything. But what the government can do is they can shift these people from private to notified slums. The government and BBMP should work together for the welfare of these people and treat them as guests. Slum-dwellers contribute a lot to the economy. It’s not right to discriminate against them.”

Private slums are slums that are not notified under the Karnataka Slum Development Board. These lands belong to individuals who lease the land and allow people to live on it. They collect money from the residents. 

Many people who live in these slums are daily-wage earners in industries.

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