In India, urban poverty stands at over 25%. This is about 81 million people living below the poverty line.
Though the number of rural poor outnumber the urban poor, India is set to witness 50% urbanization in a decade.
How has the pandemic affected the situation?
- During the initial waves of the pandemic, a large number of migrants returned to their home villages. The lockdowns, disruption in transportation and the general uncertainty triggered a crisis.
- While the rural poor’s situation was partly cushioned by the public distribution system, the minimal access of the urban poor to ration card meant that they were left vulnerable.
- The urban poor faced a decline in incomes and this translated into lesser money available to purchase food items. Many resorted to borrowing to fund basic consumption.
- While the rural poor had the MGNREGS, the urban poor faced an insecure employment environment.
- Elected leadership could be instated in the local bodies- at the level of slum cluster/ basti.
- According to the Constitution’s Article 243 S (5), a state’s legislature can make provisions for constituting committees in addition to the ward committees.
- Access to Public Services: About 50% of the urban population don’t have access to foodgrains under NFSA. However, with the portability of ration cards being enabled, access to food grains has improved.
- Now, identity markers must be established based on NFSA list to prevent leakage of benefits to non-entitled individuals. A community connect process can be used for participatory identification of the poor.
- Community Connect Campaigns: After identifying the deprived households, efforts must be taken to ensure access to social welfare schemes. This can be done using special community connect campaigns.
- Women’s Collectives: Already some 70 lakh women in 7 lakh SHGs are covered under the NULM (National Urban Livelihood Mission).
- Efforts must be taken to ensure complete coverage of deprived households by SHGs
- Migration Support Centers can be established: Expanding rental housing can help provide sufficient housing facilities for the growing population.
- Providing eligible settlers with property titles will improve access to credit.
- Opportunities for skilling, up-skilling and re-skilling must be made readily available for the poor. This should be done in a way that it combines their work with up-skilling. Apprenticeships could help.
- Addressing Hierarchies: Ambedkar had hoped that urbanization would eliminate caste hierarchies. However, this hasn’t happened. Instead, larger cities are emerging as the most segregated. Urban master plans must take the welfare and housing needs of the working class into account.
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