Share of Young Children in Urban Development is a Myth
Friday, February 22, 2013
By Tejeswar Parida
India’s urban population is increasing at a faster rate than its total population. For the first time in the history of demographic record the census of 2011-12 finds that the urban population growth rate is faster than that of the rural areas.
India has now 7,935 towns; an increase of 2,774 since the last Census (2001). Urban population grew to 377 million showing an annual growth rate of 2.76% during 2001-2011. With over 575 million people, India will have 41% percent of its population living in cities and towns by 2030 AD from the present level of 286 million and 28%. Even as the overall decadal population growth rate came down to 17.64% from 21.54% in previous decade, this decade created a history as the urban population grew by 31.80% as compared to 12.18% rural population growth.
When we talk about urban development there are projects and programmes like JNNURUM, BSUP, RAY, UIDSSMT etc to preserve the rights of citizens living in urban poverty. After being launched days back in 2005 December 3rd JNNURM has been the pioneer project for urban development in India. Under UIDSSMT of JNNURM, 807 projects have been approved for 672 towns/cities. Though the quantitative approach seems impressive the ground reality where the concern of every individual child counts are at the back door.
Every eighth urban child in India in the age-group of 0-6 years stays in slums, according to ‘Slums in India – A statistical compendium 2011′ published by the Union government.
“… about 7.6 million children are living in slums in India and they constitute 13.1 per cent of the total child population of the urban areas of the 26 States/ Union Territories reporting slums,” the report compiled by the National Buildings Organisation (NBO) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation says. “Around 2.5 million children in the age group of 0-6 are living in the slum areas of million plus cities in 2001; this constitutes 27.3 per cent of the total child population of these 27 cities,” the report stated.
Half of these 2.5 million children stay in the three major metros of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. While Mumbai has 0.86 million children, Delhi and Kolkata account for 0.3 million and 0.15 million children respectively.
Urban poverty impacts children severely. A child in urban area faces poverty in multiple ways that makes it difficult for him/her to escape from a lifelong cycle of poverty and deprivation. Slums lack basic civic amenities like clean drinking water, sanitation and health facilities. Lack of birth registration, immunisation, safe water, sanitation, safe places to play, well ventilated houses, nutritious food, safety from violence- there is an endless list of denial of rights to the young children living in urban poverty. Studies across the world have shown that lack of proper physical environment leads to impaired growth of children. Demographic dividend is reaped when the youths are healthy and educated enough to be gainfully employed. So poverty not only violates every right of children but also the overall national development. The problems of young children in poverty exist both in rural as well as urban areas but the young children living in urban slums are invisible.
Different studies have been made to explore the possibility of using JNNURM funded initiatives to improve the living conditions and well being of children and young people living in slums in cities across India. All such reports and finds are pointing out non-availability of child friendly environment within the slums in India.
In Odisha context Bhubaneswar and Puri have been selected under JNNURM and Cuttack, Berhampur and Sambalpur towns have been identified to be covered under Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) in the first phase. And several cases where a child friendly slum in needed are coming into front. Incidents like a four year old young girl in Khan sahi in Cuttack is crying in pain as her hand got burnt are rampant these days. She fell on the choolah while her mother was cooking.
Most people in slums cook just outside their houses or inside the houses which have no ventilation. Children suffer from burns, asthma and breathing problems. The open drain in a slum in Berhampur city cost a young boy his life. The lack of water and sanitation facilities results in various illnesses- diarrhoea, skin rashes and fever. With no proper housing, no drainage or water, no play areas coupled with poverty, the young urban child is denied all basic rights. As a country with nearly 159 million young children, the highest in the world, we are totally immune to the problems faced by our young children living in urban poverty.
Our children are our window of opportunity and we need to ensure that they grow up in a safe and healthy environment. $20 billion approximately is being invested in JNNURM and the country  want to make each paisa count for its young children.