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India – ‘Urban poor not an overspill of rural poverty’

NEW DELHI, Feb. 9: Urban poverty in India is not an overflow of the poverty in villages but result of “poorly planned” urbanisation, according to the country’s first-of-its-kind report on urban poverty.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sponsored study said an estimated 23.7 per cent urban populace was living in slums amid squalor, crime, disease and tension, but not all slum dwellers exist below the poverty line. Poor city planning and poorer urban land management and laws are to be blamed for the rise in numbers of urban poor, revealed the India:Urban Poverty Report, 2009, released at a function here by the Union minister of housing and urban poverty alleviation, Ms Kumari Selja.

Urban poverty, the report said, was not about only nutritional deficiency but deficiencies in the basic needs of housing, water, sanitation, medical care, education, and opportunity for income generation. “It is not a report on the poor in urban areas but a report on the process of urbanisation in India keeping poverty at the centre of analysis,” said social scientist Prof. Amitabh Kundu, who has played a key role in bringing out the report.

The report revealed that urban workers were being increasingly pushed into the informal sector and the urban poor were a street vendor, a rickshaw puller, a rag picker, a cleaner, a washerman, a load carrier or a domestic servant.

The report that deals in detail with the problem of small and medium cities, said while these workers contributed to the growth of cities, there was a growing trend to push them to the urban periphery. A near absence of rights to land and livelihood, and the higher cost that the poor have to incur on transportation and travel to workplace are some of the highlights of the study.

Quoting latest data from National Sample Survey (NSS), it said it would be dangerous to let the process of urbanisation and migration be centred on a few mega cities, ignoring smaller towns.

The NSS data suggests that poverty in large cities, particularly in metros, was rather low, at or below 10 per cent. Towns with less than 50,000 people, on the other hand, have much higher level of poverty and greater deprivation and the quality of their lives was almost similar to that in rural areas.

Source – The Statesman

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