Four decades ago, Munishwar Yadav came to Chandigarh as a 20-year-old with three friends from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh in search of work. He found home in shanty in Industrial Area, which has gradually developed into a full-fledged slum now called Colony No 4.
At 62, Yadav, popularly known as Pehalwan, epitomises the underbelly of Chandigarh that has now come out rather startlingly in the latest census of 2011. “When I came here, there were only 15 houses, but now the number must be 5,000 houses with a population of 20,000,” he says.
But make no mistake in judging him. There’s another aspect in which he epitomises the Chandigarh story: ambition. Having graduated himself from being an illiterate worker at Bhushan Industries in Industrial Area-1 to scrap dealer, Yadav has got married in 1981 and has built a bright future for his kids.
He boasts rather innocently, like a typical doting dad: “I stay in the same house, which is bigger now, but one of my sons has done B.Tech from PTU (Punjab Technical University) and the other is doing his post-graduation from PU (Panjab University). One of my daughters has done her B.Ed and is looking for a job, while the other in school.”
Including the meeting with Yadav, HT took a tour of 18 city slums to know about the evolution of what is carelessly termed a “black spot” on the face of a planned city. Over 1.5 lakh people – around 10% of Chandigarh’s population -- live in these colonies, tracing their origins to the origins of Chandigarh itself. In 1950, slums were present in Sector 7, 17, 19, 24, 35 and near Capitol Complex, but today, as per official record, there are 23,974 (and counting) dwellings in these 18 slums spread across Chandigarh. Again debunking many myths, the census has shown how a large number of slum-dwellers possess not just TVs and mobile phones but even laptops and cars.
A study conducted recently by Manoj Teotia, assistant professor, Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) based in Sector 19 -- titled ‘Planning for the urban poor in north western India: Emerging policies practices and issues’ – says the first slum-dwellers were obviously the workers who constructed Chandigarh after Independence.
From six locations in 1950, labour colonies were reported in Sector 25, west of Sector 14, Sector 26 and Industrial Area-1, too, by 1960. Fast forward to 1998 and you have Labour Colony No 4 and 5, Janta Colony, Kumhar Colony in Sector 25, two labour colonies near Sector 39, Adarsh Colony near Palsora, a labour colony at Industrial Area-2, Rajiv Colony near Sector 38 and Nehru Colony near Sector 53.
Now, the list has Ambedkar Colony, Gurusagar Colony, Janta Colony, Kabadi Colony, Kalyan Colony, Kuldeep Colony, Kumhar Colony, Colony Number 4 and 5, LBS Colony, Madrasi Colony, Majdoor Colony, Nehru Colony, Rajiv Colony, Sanjay Colony, Mauli Jagran slums, Shahpur Colony and Pandit Colony. Colony No 5 has the highest population living in over 7,000 houses.
Where people come from
The CRRID study not surprisingly lists Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and also neighboring states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan as the primary places from where people migrate to Chandigarh. No different from other metros or would-be metros, Chandigarh also seems the destination for better livelihood options. A significant spike in the migration was witnessed in the four decades between 1971 and 2011. And what reveals more about our entire country than just Chandigarh is the fact that 97% of the slum-dwellers belong to underprivileged sections of society such as Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/ST).
Most of these people are basic service providers at the bottom of the pyramid, without whom the city might come to a standstill. Skilled as well as unskilled, these slum-dwellers are rickshaw-or cart-pullers, hawkers, small vendors, mechanics, cobblers, masons, carpenters, weavers, washermen, domestic workers, ragpickers, and scrap dealers in some cases.
No place in first plans
In Chandigarh, although the planners did envisage construction of huge buildings for official, commercial and residential purposes -- requiring the services of different kind of labour force -- yet they did not make provisions for their shelter at all in the city plan. They thought the labour force would go back after the construction work was over, but that, history shows, never happens.
In one of the much-debated moves – apart from rehabilitation schemes as a last resort -- the Chandigarh administration had in June last year proposed to make it mandatory for all private houses and industrial plots of 1 kanal and above who engage servants or labour to make available suitable accommodation for them within their premises. That didn’t work out, though.
Ironically, the welfare of slum residents exists only on paper and in lip service, even though there are around 2 lakh voters in the 18 slums who virtually hold the key to electoral victory in the city. The voters are much in demand during elections as the ‘posh’ areas’ residents are known to shirk their right to vote, and the poll percentage is higher from slum areas. The love affair, however, begins and ends at the flirting stage mostly.
Tomorrow: Rehabilitation of slum-dwellers