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From 50 Years Ago: Small Mercies without Charity

Vol III, No 47 November 30, 1968

Small Mercies without Charity

The larger cities and towns in India are presently faced with the problem of slum clearance and of providing alternative accommodation to slum dwellers. The civic authorities often come up with plans which generally remain on paper. Such plans need funds and advantage was taken of Robert McNamara’s visit to Calcutta to press the case for a World Bank loan for the purpose by officials of the Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organisation and Water and Sanitation Authority. The Maharashtra Revenue Minister too has announced plans to shift Bombay’s hutment dwellers occupying sites which are immediately required for public works.

But the current approach to slum problems is dominated more by middle-class ideas of respectability than by any human consideration of the bare essentials of sanitary living. The bustees (as such colonies are called) have been provided with water connections — however inadequate. If this were not done, hutment dwellers would be driven to raid neighbouring compounds, owned by private individuals, for water. They would also (and in fact they often do) pilfer water from fire hydrants and water mains at several points. So, to avoid damage to the better-placed sections of the city’s population, at least a few water connections have to be given to the bustees.

No such concern was shown till now for the sanitation needs of the hutment dwellers … With the city’s building activity extending itself to these reserves, hutment dwellers have been driven to use railway tracks and yards, public gardens and public roads. The problem of sanitation is bound to become more acute as plots are cornered for housing and more people flock into the city …

Efforts should therefore be directed towards providing a modicum of human dignity, by way of basic public sanitary facilities and a minimum of water connections, to the bustees.

Updated On : 30th Nov, 2018

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