I was coming back from my tuition today and it happened so that I got an opportunity to see the slum where our maid lives. It was a slum with all its hallmarks. Dilapidated and pathetic state of living, poverty beyond imagination. This photo here is of Dharavi, one of the largest slums of India and probably Asia as well. This is an iconic photograph as this showed the disparity between two classes of society. This is ofcourse not where my maid lives. Dharavi in is Mumbai, Maharashtra and our maid lives in Haryana, two states separated by almost 1500 km. But there is not any difference in the lifestyle.
There was a movie called Nayak which means “Hero” in Hindi. In this movie, somehow an ordinary an gets to become the Chief Minister of Maharashtra for one day. He sees that, people are living in slums, being originally of a media career, he knew that people of that slum had been allotted permanent residences by the government. So, when he investigates, he comes to know that these people had put those houses on rent so that they could earn an extra buck.
Now coming back to my maid’s slum. I was shocked to see that there were two temples in succession but basic sanitary facilities were not available to those people. There is a forest type area in front of that slum, they actually go to there to relieve themselves. Moreover, they cross the roads as if they are some super hero or Rajnikant, totally oblivious to there surrounding and might I tell you, they are supposed to cross a well built and well maintained National Highway.
I am not even aware of the fact that do all of the children there go to school or not as there are very few schools in the vicinity. I was shocked to that many of the houses had cars, not like Mercedes or something but a TATA Nano (world’s cheapest car) and MARUTI SUZUKI Baleno (the production of this vehicle has stopped). What even makes me laugh is that my maid’s daughter is in 12th, just given her exams and the family is looking for a groom. But this fact requires appreciation that atleast she was allowed to complete her school.
It is not that these people don’t earn money. My made take 1000 Rupees (20$, a nice amount here), a month and she works in a good 5-6 houses, her husband works in a factory and and brings in about 10000 Rupees (200$) and has a working son who also gets a little more than what his father earns. In all a family way above the poverty line in even an Indian city. Moreover, they save on many type of thins like house rent, they get electricity on subsidized rates and the other perks.
Sulabh International Ltd. provides installation of a simple two pit or pit privy toilets at a very low cost with proper guarantee and warranty for the stipulated period of time. Even after that time period expires, the maintenance cost is minimal. Yet to save that money, people prefer to defecate in the open and put there life at the risk of exposure to innumerable diseases. Surprising right!
We here cannot hold only the people responsible here. According to Census 2011 only 75% people in India are literate and through a private survey, it was found that even these 75% cannot read properly or even write their names correctly, yet have been deemed literate. The government had to tell people about the dangers of defecating in the open, probably give an additional benefit with it like the Mid-Day Meal scheme is the benefit that students get by coming to schools run by government of India. Also, when the National Highway was being widened, the slum was not removed, even though it creates a really big constraint of space on the road and a perenial traffic jam even after such a huge amount was spent on revamping this entire section of the road. If they couldn’t do it, they could have outsourced the job. Even if that was not possible, they could have told Sulabh itself to construct a toilet complex, seeing the huge number of people residing there.
Sulabh in Hindi means easy to find. It is an NGO turned company that constructs self sufficient toilets across the country and continents. You can read more about it here www.sulabhinternational.org/
Well but this is India.