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Indian Slums Vs. Rural Areas – Are they any better off

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Indian Slums

The recent report of the Census Commissioner very well depicts the state of the Indian economy. In India, over 64 million people represent the under privileged people living in Slums, also known as Slum Dwellers. 1 of every 6 individuals resides in Slum area where they not only fight for life but also fight for the life supporting basic amenities. Unsanitary conditions, no electricity, no hygiene conditions, no road, transport, food, shelter, cleanliness, etc. are some of the facts which describe the state of these areas. In short one can say the area is unfit for human habitation. However if we look at the condition of some of the villages we find it to be far more worse.

Slums vs. Rural Areas

i) Entrepreneur Hub – People might fantasize about green village helping the economy balance the environment but the migration of millions of villagers to cities every year in search of work only to see slum, says it all. Slums though being rosy & comfortable, are centers of entrepreneurship. It provides the Indians a platform to climb up the ladder whenever any opportunity comes their way.

The census report stated that over 16% (nearly one-sixth) of the households are factories, shops, etc. The slum areas are not dead ends where people think there is no life. If we talk of Dharavi, the largest slum in Mumbai, we see a business of over 650 million USD from the slums. The figures should make one envy and not feel pity for the people residing there. The living conditions might be poor in these areas but the opportunities to succeed are way too much beyond one’s imagination.

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ii) Better Earning Opportunities – Slums are regarded as the entry point for the poor into the cities. The rural area where caste discrimination still prevails doesn’t do any good to the dalits and shudras who are unable to raise their heads even in many villages. The high domination of the upper caste and taxation from the land owners are only ruining the life of villagers. Villagers who leave rural area in search of better job/life/shelter and migrate to cities earn definitely more.

iii) Rising Real Estate Costs – One of the key reasons for people to spend life in Slum is the rising real estate prices. Real estate is one such commodity which bears no resemblance with once income. Land is becoming unaffordable for the middle class and is a distant dream for the poor. This is one of the key reasons of slow urbanization in India.

Poor enter cities through existing towns or new shanty homes, all thanks to our politician for such a story. Shanty homes are frequently regularized but only when elections are knocking the door. To maintain the vote bank, the poor are hammered emotionally with the shanty homes and its modification. However, when the election is over, no politician ever turns towards these areas, supply of electricity and water regulation is a distant matter.

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iv) TV vs Basic Amenities – According to the census over 70% of the households have TVs, whereas only 47% of total Indian households have basic facilities such as electricity & water. When it comes to comparison with states we find only 14.5% household in Bihar and 33.2% household in UP have access to TV. The most developed state Gujarat, the shining dream of Narendra Modi also has as low as 51.2% household equipped with TV. Thus most of the states have a far lower rate of TV accessibility than the slums.

v) Toilet & Sanitation – When it comes to sanitation, report says around 34% of slums do not have proper sanitation/toilets. Well that’s true; but when compared to the rural India the numbers are really shocking at 69.3%. Seems slums are better that rural “GREEN” India. Ratios in states (for rural area) are even worse with Jharkhand being the worst at 90% followed by Bihar at 82% and Gujarat 67%, etc. The story is no different for facilities like access to Tap Water, availability of elementary education, healthcare, electricity, jobs, etc. Shockingly ownership of cell phones has increased manifold in slum areas to be recorded at 63.5%. The ratio is in line with what it is with richer urban households.

Be it availability of computers (10%) or cooking gas (51%), slum area is placed well above the rural areas. In certain cases, they are not far short of urban households. Amazing isn’t it? Well Tap Water is one area where slum households have outperformed the urban households even (74% vs. 70.6%).


Thus, it is needless to say that we have misinterpreted the fact about Slums. They are far better than the villages, despite being referred as “unsanitary, cramped conditions” in the census report.

Slums should not be thought as filthy rather should be regarded as entry-points of the poor into the land of urban opportunity. Slums acts as havens of dignity for dalits and shudras and are definitely rising hub for entrepreneurs with opportunity. Instead of demolishing slums we should improve slum sanitation, water supply and garbage disposal and upgrade them.



Niraj Satnalika

Niraj is an MBA in International Business (Finance). Prior to this he completed B.Tech in Electronics and Instrumentation. He is currently working with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Kolkata in capacity of Consultant. Satnalika is actively involved with an NGO and works towards promoting education among the underprivileged.

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