CSR and Housing

CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility refers to business practices involving initiatives that benefit the society.

According to the Minister of Corporate Affairs, slum redevelopment will be treated as a CSR activity.

BJP’s election manifesto was to usher in a low-cost housing policy that would ensure every family in India a house by the year 2022 (75th year of Indian Independence).   Hence the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana was launched in the year 2014.

Ministry of Corporate Affairs has clarified that slum redevelopment or housing for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) could be covered under eligible CSR category of “measures taken for reducing inequalities faced by socially and economically backward groups”.

Even if slum redevelopment qualifies as CSR activity, experts caution that a gray area would crop up if a slum area is taken up for construction of villas and the slum dwellers are rehabilitated by the builders.  Hence, Housing For All (or HFA 2022) stipulates on the requirements of the scheme as in-situ slum redevelopment.

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The Blue Tent Phenomena

Often glanced over by the eyes of the typical city-dweller, slums fill up at the corners of the streets, the banks of the drainage ways and underneath flyovers.

When slums are browns and greys, they are hidden under the shadows between high-risers and are camouflaged against the piles of garbage. The inhabitants are unknown, their lives a mystery and the communities are reduced to a blur seen from the windows of commuters as they drive by.

But here in Bangalore, the slums shout out from the shadows with vibrancy. One would require significant effort to turn a blind eye to these bright blue tarpaulin rooftops. A blue that cannot hide under bridges and does not camouflage easily creates a string of open ended questions of why’s and how’s. Is the green cityscape of Bangalore being replaced by a cobalt blue?

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Let’s assess this situation- The Slum Development Board of Karnataka concluded their 2010 survey with some alarming statistics. 22.5% of Karnataka’s urban population live in slums. 1.4 million of those live within Bangalore’s urban district. Bangalore’s slum population has almost doubled in the past decade. 62% of these slums have been present in the city for more than 30 years.

Where have these people come from? With the rise in Bangalore’s economy, there has been a boom in the construction industry. The sudden spur of buildings created a need for labour. This brought an influx of migrant workers. With an average daily wage of Rs.200 for unskilled labour, what kind of housing can a family afford?

With a sole breadwinner, a family of 6-8 can live in conditions that are at best described as meagre. In a tent of not more than 150sq.ft, all household activities from sleeping to cooking are carried out. Under the bright blue, conditions are dim. Leaking roofs and damp floors encase the smoke-filled interiors. The lucky ones with access to electricity get light into the space, while the rest rely on their cooking fires. Without proper sanitary facilities and drinking water, disease is no stranger in these communities. Medical aid and school education seemed to be absent from their lives.

Just a walk into the community is enough to grasp the sights, smells and the sounds. But to understand the stories, their lives and their needs, an in-depth study would be necessary. Moving to the city presents an attractive prospect. Yet, for years these communities continue to call these pitiful slums their home. What is their future? What can be done to alleviate the situation?

 

 

The City’s Invisibles

On our many trips to Thimmaiyandoddi village, at an unlikely junction where the city ended and the villages were set to foray (or did the city encroach into the villages?) we noticed a small low lying land, not yet concretized by its owners. This land had many blue tents that housed families sharing a common bathing tent. They were frail and flailing structures, feeble under the mercy of body and breeze.

We began to wonder; who are the people who live in them? What are the problems they face? What happens to them during the rains, and when the nearby sewage overflows? How do they cook? Do the children go to school? Are the women and children safe? How much do they spend on their housing? Ironically situated just a few kilometres away from Electronics City, this invisible settlement got us thinking…

Perception: Humans see what we want to see. Suddenly, we started noticing these same blue tents dotting the city-scape. For how long have they been Bangalore? The blue tent paradox…

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