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The slum dwellers of Calcutta: they are living too

The slum mismanagement of Calcutta, India, that has acquired chronic proportion over decades of negligence, is the principle cause behind the colossal poverty of the slum dwellers. They are now in less than a sorry state of living.

The outlook:
From outside the colony, one may be disillusioned to find the place to be a garbage dump rather than a living ground. A series of dilapidated huts- some thatched, some mud, some tin shacks- with straw or tiled roofs, stand to be blown away at the slightest hint of a storm. The roofs does not provide enough shelter from rains and one can see the repairs done with plastic sheets covering the holes on the roofs. These sheets are in turn held in position by none other than broken bricks or flat bicycle tyres collected from somewhere. What a contrasting sight against the backdrop of tall buildings!

The inside view:
As one enters the colony, he is greeted by a swarm of mosquitoes, flies, a most repulsive smell and, most importantly, the sight of endemic poverty. Naked or half-naked children, the victims of insuffiency and malnutrition, play on streets with stray dogs. Some go around in quest of food in the nearby garbage dump while others find utmost peace bathing in the never-cleaned swampy waters of a pond that has been the breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects for ages. That is where they wash their dishes and clothes- if that is what is called washing! Thus the possibility of outbreaks of various contaminated diseases is being fuelled on a regular basis.
There being no childbirth control, the family-heads can hardly buy enough food and clothing for all and out of hundred children born in a slum, one is left uncared for beside a railroad track .... to die! Illiteracy has driven them to perform such a heinous act!
The thatched walls and roofs break down or rot during a rainy season. But the inmates, who barely can afford meal once a day, turn a blank eye to the problem and try to cope up with the impending doom.Chronic sickness so has become their faithful companion. Thus they are vulnerable and insecure than ever before always living in panic.

This life of the absolute poor- a life below the poverty line, has exposed the corruption amongst the authorities and the comatose city administration. Their constant denial in accessing the basic necessities of life- food, shelter, clothing, medicines, toiletries, sanitation services, drinking water, affordable transportation, judicial services, security and education has made their life more miserable- as well as proved that the administrative system is in shambles and the authorities are incapable of changing things for the better.
Education and skill development- being the two keys to solve the problem have never been pursued thus leaving them half-naked and homeless in empty stomachs under the most unhygienic conditions amongst diseases and misery, sufferings and cries, pain and helplessness.

Who are they?
In India, mostly the poverty stricken people live on agriculture. But when earnings from farming fail to be sufficient, the peasants move to cities and towns, where they have no land of their own. Thus they start living under the archways of bridges or under tall trees or even may be on the footpaths- wherever there is drinking water nearby and build up a colony. People from other professions also join them- like the artisans who prepare outdated handicrafts, rural and urban fishermen, cobblers, rickshaw pullers, the labourers who had been so long exploited by the rural landowners and more people of poor origin. It is not always easy to find an acceptable job in the city either- so they send their womenfolk to work as maids in the lower-middle, middle and upper class families- washing their clothes, floors and utensils, cooking and serving, babysitting- while they themselves sit at home looking after children or finding some home business like paper-bag making or rolling tobacco into some miniature cigerette forms called 'biri's- mostly popular amongst the lower class of the society.

The bright side:
Even after all the hazardous situations that they had been through and are currently facing, they are never out of enthusiasm and celebrate any occasion as if their sufferings have come to an end. Marriage celebrations, festivals, their participation in performing certain rites and rituals collecting all the family members and arranging night-long entertaining programs through subscriptions bear a direct contrast to their sorry state and claim appreciation.


Since there had been an increase in the number of slum dwellers in Calcutta in the past decade in a geometric proportion, a question that promptly pops up in a thinking man's mind is that:
Do they really need some reforms or are they merrily living in their present situations?