Those calling them pushovers will eat humble pie

Slumdwellers contribute significantly to Citys economy, finds study

  The City’s slumdwellers are often seen as the cause for many of the ills dogging it and a drain on its resources. But a recent study shows that they contribute 3.5 per cent to its economy, despite being handicapped due to poor infrastructure facilities in their dwelling places.

Significantly, 48 per cent of the children in the slums go to private schools, a pointer to the fact that parents fund their children’s education from their savings, the prohibitive costs notwithstanding.

The survey of households and enterprises, conducted in Bangalore and Chennai by NGO Public Affairs Centre (PAC), puts their contribution to the City’s economy at Rs 16 billion (1,600 crore) to Rs 20 billion (2,000 crore), out of the total of Rs 581 billion (58,100 crore) in 2011. The poor, living in slums constitute nine to 11 per cent of the City’s population.

Research Group in PAC, said, “With 30 per cent of the urban poor having bank accounts, in the aggregate the poor households earned Rs 15 billion, spent a total of Rs 12 billion and contributed a savings of Rs three billion to the City in 2011.”

The urban poor offer services to the City as drivers, domestic helps, construction workers and through small enterprises. More than half (53 per cent) their services are in the organised sector, contrary to popular belief, she said.

Based on interactions

The survey results are based on interactions with members of 1,000 households and 200 informal enterprises. The study estimates that there are about 65,000 drivers, 9,000 cooks and 73,000 domestic workers from the slums.

“There were an average of 21 self-managed enterprises in each slum. Despite the nominal contribution from the poor to the economy, the City managers do not have proper data on them. As per BBMP statistics, there were 589 slums in the City. But NGO Centre for Policies and Practices put the number at 733,” said Venugopala Reddy, a fellow researcher with PAC.

Kala said despite their contribution to the city’s economy, slumdwellers were deprived of services such as public toilets, to which only 29 per cent of them had access. “Only 12 per cent of the poor claimed they were beneficiaries of government schemes. Poor drainage connections and garbage collection are their other problems. It is high time we make them respected citizens,” she said.

However, the silver lining is that access to public services such as water supply (88 per cent), electricity (98 per cent), streetlights (94 per cent) and roads (93 per cent) is much better for them. PAC’s study was supported by the Centre’s programme ‘Support to national policies for urban poverty reduction’.

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