Slums have been defined as those areas where buildings are unfit for human habitation, or are by dilapidation, overcrowding, design of buildings, narrowness of streets, lack of ventilation, light or sanitary facilities or any combination of these factors, are detrimental to safety, health or moral (Slum Area Improvement and Clearance Act 1956).

The growth of slums is considered to be a major bane to human society next only to population explosion in this century. It is a substandard housing within a city. It is an inhabited uninhabitable habitation.


  1. There has been no systematic scientific survey or updating of the slum population carried out on an all India basis, though some city specific ad hoc surveys have been done.
  2. The percentage of slum population in the four mega cities are – Bombay 34.30%
    • Calcutta 32.90%
    • Madras 32.10%
    • Delhi 31.40%
  3. An all India average where the cities with 10 lakh and above population have 29.10% population living in slums.
  4. The slums are also deficient of various basic services, water supply and sanitation facilities being most acute.
  5. Empirical evidences shows that higher the intensity of urbanization, higher is the percentage of slum population.
  6. Juvenile delinquency and mal-socialization of more or less prevalent in the slum society
  7. Slums act as cover for hide-outs for all sorts of crimes and vices like gambling which prevail and thrive upon the city population.

Genesis and growth of slums :

  1. Higher intensity of economic activities in cities mainly attracts poor people particularly from the adjacent rural areas. Most of this population have practically no resources for living and are instrumental in establishing slums and squatters settlements.
  2. A large population of such urban poor provides services to the other segment of population i.e.. vending, plumbing, waste disposal service, domestic and transport services.
  3. No amount of legal and regulatory mechanism could stop this process because of the economic reality of bargaining for the cheapest labour, goods and services by the city consumers and readiness of this migrant poor population to provide the same.
  4. To earn max income with least possible cost for living and community while providing goods and services the urban poor frequently invades open lands if these are optimally located.
  5. The cost of housing schemes made for economically weaker sections at times tend to be beyond the affordability of slum dwellers pricing then out from housing supply.

Types of Slums :

  1. Original slum : An area which from very beginning consisted of unsuitable buildings. These are usually areas around an old factory or mining site which is now given up or is the zone in transition. These sections are beyond recovery as they consist of age old structures and they need to be razed in order to be eradicated e.g. Mexican Slum; slums in Kolkata.
  2. Transitional zone slum: It is created by the departure of middle and upper class families to other sections or it may be due to the starting of a new industry or due to congestion and subsequent deterioration of the living area. These are to be found in the transition zone of developing cities.
  3. The third and most unpleasant type of slum is mainly a phenomenon of transition once the area around a main business district has become blighted. Physical and social deterioration spreads rapidly. This type of slum looms with flophouses, one night accommodations for the destitute, houses of prostitution. It is populated by chronic alcoholics, beggars, homeless men and habitual criminals.
Possible solution and steps taken :
  1. Earlier the stress was on clearance of slums, which is now replaced by an approach for the Environmental Improvement of Urban Slums (E1US) by the provisions of basic services such as water supply, community toilets, drainage, paved pathways and street lights.
  2. Soft loans for slum upgradation and environmental improvement schemes have been provided by HUDCO.
  3. Since 1989, the Government of India has also launched the shelter upgradation scheme under the Nehru Rozgar Yojana.
  4. While preparing the master or structure plan for a city, adequate provision should be made in the land use for the habitats/workplaces of the required urban poor/low income service population which constitutes an overwhelming majority in Indian cities.
  5. Rather than snatching land from slum dwellers they should be provided adequate habitable land at affordable cost at any other site or the same location where they are staying.
  6. This system of land banking will be more beneficial with long term sustainability.
  7. The given land should be duly linked preferably by cycle tracks with the industrial/ organized economic activity centres in the city.
  8. Such optional locations will reduce the cost of transportation and save time thereby reducing the cost of goods and services to consumers besides reducing the stress in the city transportation system.
  9. The allotted lands should accrue the right to the individual household and no right to sell to prevent transfer and resquatting.
  10. Such habitats should have adequate provisions for social facilities like education and health facilities for a wholesome life. HUDCO has suggested that all housing agencies earmark 5 to15% of the housing development area to be utilized for the shelter less service population. As a result a land bank of 341 hectares have been created in different states.
  11. HUDCO has also requested all the state Governments to consider issuing suitable order for reserving land for the shelterless category as done by the Government of M.P.
  12. There is no single solution to the problem of slums, nor a simple one.
  13. Slum Area (Improvement and Clearance) Act that seeks to clear slums and properly rehabilitate the discoursed population.
  14. A programme for providing housing in urban areas called Valmiki Ambedkar Aawas Yojana (VAMBAY) has been started for lower caste slum dwellers.
  15. The Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM) which envisages a total investment of ever 520 billion has a component for the urban poor called Basic Services for Urban Poor (BSUP).

The problem of slums is widespread in overweight cities of developing countries.The prime concern is not that slums are breeding ground of crime and disease, rather than slums residents do not get a good quality of life. Only a multi-pronged approach backed by motivated administration can tackle these problems.

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