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Poverty in India on the Rise.

September 4, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW DELHI: Despite the country’s robust economic growth, around 93.06 million people will live in slums in cities by next year, an increase of around 23% since 2001 forced by a lack of space and means.

According to an expert committee set up to estimate “reliable” urban slum population, there has been a growth of 17.8 million across the country in the last decade.

Defending the increase in slum population figures, minister for housing and urban poverty alleviation Kumari Selja said this trend is on expected lines due to a spurt in urbanisation. However, she assured that the percentage would come down, with the efforts of UPA-II towards slum development and rehabilitation.

The committee, headed by Pranab Sen, principal adviser to the Planning Commission and former chief statistician, pointed out that the projected slum population in 2011 would be go up to 93.06 million from 75.26 million that was estimated in 2001 as per the new methodology. The 2001 Census figures peg the slum population at 52.4 million.

By next year, 31.63 lakh people will be living in slums in Delhi as compared to 23.18 lakh in 2001, going by the panel’s methodology.

Among the states, Maharastra tops the chart with around 1.815 crore will be living in slums in 2011, followed by Uttar Pradesh (1.087 crore), Tamil Nadu (86.44 lakh), West Bengal (85.46 lakh) and Andhra Pradesh (81.88 lakh).

The ministry appointed the committee to come out with reliable slum data to ensure better implementation of Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) that aims to eradicate slums in India.

Selja said there was “paucity of correct data earlier” as small towns were left out, and the new definition put forth by the committee would serve as a guideline for Slum Census 2011 and state governments.

A major reason for the total slum population being underreported was due to the fact that the Census 2001 took into account only notified slums in 1,764 towns across the country.

Officials attributed the rise in slum figures to wider definition of slum and expanding the coverage as the committee has factored in all 5,161 towns, including 3,799 statutory towns, and has also modified the definition of slum as followed by the Registrar General of India (RGI), which conducts the Census.

Selja said the target of achieving a slum-free India in five years, as outlined by President Pratibha Patil, was not unachievable if states cooperate fully.

Admitting that urban population is growing and there are many challenges to realise the goal, the minister said, “UPA government has committed itself to RAY and money should not be a constraint”.

The committee recommended to adopt a normative definition based on appropriate indicators and checklists for the purpose of identification of slum areas and enumeration of population of area with 20-25 households, having slum-like characteristics in an enumeration block in Census 2011.

All clusters of 20-25 or more households having no roofs or non-concrete roofs, and not having any facility of drinking water, toilets or drainage will be considered as slums. Earlier, the cluster size for identification of slums was 60 households.

The panel has suggested that for the purpose of policy formulation — for Slum Census 2011 — it is absolutely essential to “count the slum population even in cities having less than 20,000 population”.

The committee has recommended that Registrar General of India, which is conducting the 2011 survey, should share layout maps with the ministry as an aid for slum surveys.

TheTimesofIndia

Another diplomatic success for Pakistan as SM Krishna criticized in India on return

S M Krishna criticised for not defending G K Pillai

This is the question India is asking a day after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi slammed India’s Home Secretary GK Pillai in the joint press conference held in Islamabad. External Affairs Minister S M Kirshna did not defend him.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi took exception to the fact that the Indian home secretary had made the comments at all ahead of the talks, saying it was unhelpful to the peace process.

“We discussed it, and we’re both of the opinion it (the home secretary’s comments) was uncalled for,” Qureshi said.

Krishna, who sat beside him, said nothing.

This drew sharp reaction from Indian people, media and the Opposition. The BJP said the castigation of India’s Home Secretary outside the country and in the presence of its own Foreign Minister is unacceptable.

Ahead of the talks, Indian Home Secretary G K Pillai was quoted by an Indian newspaper as saying Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency orchestrated the Mumbai attacks. He said information had emerged from the interrogation of David Coleman Headley, an American who pleaded guilty in the US in March to being in on the planning of the attacks.

The Pakistani agency has previously denied any involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

Maoists winning the battle to control India

Friday’s train crash in India has been blamed on “sabotage” by Maoist rebels. It was the latest in a series of rebel attacks after the government launched an offensive against them. The BBC’s Soutik Biswas asks whether the rebels are gaining the upper hand.

It is not surprising that Maoist rebels are being blamed for the derailment of an express train in India’s West Bengal state, in which 71 passengers were killed.

The police claim they have found posters signed by a local Maoist militia claiming responsibility for removing part of the track, which led to the train skidding off and colliding with a freight train coming in the opposite direction.

West Midnapore district, where the incident happened, is the hotbed of Maoist rebellion in West Bengal, one of the states where the rebels have a presence.

Tribespeople dominate the district, especially the forested Junglemahal region bordering Jharkhand state.

They feel ignored and deprived by the Communist government which has been ruling the state since 1977. Most live in abject poverty. The only visible signs of “development” I spotted during a trip to the area some years ago were cheap liquor shops.

Strong support

Fed up with the state of affairs, Junglemahal’s tribespeople even agitated for a separate state.

When neighbouring Jharkhand was carved out as a separate state, their alienation grew and they were quick to welcome the Maoists, who wield most influence in areas which are poor and dominated by tribespeople.

The security forces are on the backfoot after a spree of rebel attacks
The Lalgarh area in Junglemahal is the rebels’ most formidable stronghold.
In February, they stormed a police camp in Lalgarh, killing 24 policemen.
Rebels love to describe Lalgarh as a “liberated zone” where the state has withered away – schools and medical centres have closed down because teachers and doctors are afraid to attend, and policemen are confined to the police stations fearing reprisals.

Friday’s incident in West Midnapore demonstrates how the rebels are taking the battle to their enemies ever since the federal government launched an offensive in what is known as India’s “red corridor” earlier this year.

This comprises 223 of India’s 636 districts in 20 states which the government says are “Maoist affected”, up from 55 districts in nine states six years ago.
Ninety of these affected districts, the government says, are experiencing “consistent violence.”

The rebels have been carrying out attacks with impunity in recent months – two major attacks Dantewada in Chhattisgarh state left more than 100 people dead, including 75 paramilitary troops.
But there are also theories that in this case the Maoist script went slightly awry.

Maoists frequently tamper with railway lines and often these lead to minor derailments; a number of such attempts have been caught well in time. There have been hijackings but no major attacks on civilian transport with such a death toll.

In the past year, Maoists have carried out 32 attacks on railways, mainly in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh – but no major casualties have been reported.

Support for the Maoist cause across India generally will be dented by such an attack, just as it was after the assault on troops in Dantewada.

Following the twin Dantewada attacks, the government said it was reviewing its strategy for fighting the rebels, who have refused to respond to repeated government offers for talks.

Analysts say that the strategy of “clearing, holding and developing” rebel-affected areas evidently inspired by the US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan is not working.

‘Visible retreat’

One reason, they say, is that the surge of security forces and resources on the ground are not sufficient enough to take on the rebels who are spread over a vast swathe of remote mineral-rich forest lands.

Maoists call Lalgarh a “liberated zone”

The government is now in a “visible retreat” after a spree of rebel attacks, says security analyst Ajai Sahni.
He believes that a lack of adequate forces, training and intelligence is leading to these “disasters”.

“Unless local capacities for intelligence and operations are enormously augmented, this [offensive] can go nowhere, and lot of lives are going to be lost for no useful purpose,” Mr Sahni says.

But the under-equipped local police and intelligence-gathering networks remain Indian security’ s weakest link, and there no visible efforts to bolster them.

The government appears to be confused over how the rebels should be tackled – there are differences in the ruling Congress party itself on whether the state should strike hard against it’s own people.

Recently federal home minister P Chidambaram requested wider powers to deal with the rebels, saying that he had been given a “limited mandate.”
He said the chief ministers of some of the worst affected states have asked for air power to be used against the rebels – a measure that the government has refused to sanction.

Analysts believe that many states are not doing enough to take on the rebels, leading to a “centralisation” of the problem.

The train ‘”sabotage” was one of the biggest attacks launched by the rebels
“The principal responsibility for dealing with the Maoists remain that of the states; the first responders, the local police stations, have to be strengthened and equipped to deal with the task on their own.”

Till that happens, the rebels will be seen to have an upper hand in what promises to be long drawn out and bloody conflict, the like of which India has never seen.

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