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?


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?




Where does Karnataka stand?

India has one of the highest percentages of rural population in the world with almost 70% of the country living outside developed towns and cities. With 29 states and 7 union territories, India is an amalgamation of variety in terms of demographics, rural and urban lifestyles and cultures. Where does Karnataka stand?

INDIA, KARNAKATA, HAROHALLI - MAY 24 : Arround Bangalore in the silk farm of farmer Reddy, the ancestral and traditional method is used for spining stage of slikworms. Some wicker basket are used to dispaly the worms. Cross breed cocoon (yellowish) would be produced. Outisde display of basket won't allow temperature's check. Employee woman are displayed the worm in wicker basket.

In Karnataka, the largest state in South India in terms of area, 61% of the population live in rural areas. [i] Most rural dwellers are farmers by occupation, while other occupations like silk farming, weaving and craft making are also found. Karnataka’s plateau terrain, tropical climate and predominantly red soil is ideal for a variety of crops; rice, ragi, jowar and bajra being most abundant.

The map shows thekarnatakapopulationmap districts in the state the distribution of population. Note how the Bangalore region is most dense, followed by Belgaum, while areas like Hasan, Bidar and Chikmagalur have a fairly sparse population. [ii]

What is the architecture in rural Karnataka like? Hand-made mud walls reinforced with sticks and coconut palms with thatched roofs is seen in the poorest of villages. The use of sun-baked mud blocks and clay tiled roofs are seen in other villages who have improved their lifestyles and have slowly incorporated the construction methods and materials of the towns and cities.

A research conducted on the sanitation of each state shows Karnataka in quite a pitiful condition. The study shows the percentage of rural households with toilets and the differences seen over the past decade. Despite an improvement from 18% to 28% in 2011, Karnataka still stands below the all-India average of 31%.[iii]


Karnataka is in need of a lot of improvement. Despite the aid of the government and many non-government organizations, impact is marginal and change is slow.

Over the next few weeks, blog posts about a few rural projects will give you an insight of what is happening in rural Karnataka.

[i] India Demographics [ii] Karnataka Demographics [iii] Sanitation in Rural India and Karnataka- How has the needle moved? – Pavan Srinath

The Cost of Urbanization


The world population is vastly divided up on the basis of various factors. With the onset of urbanization in last few centuries, there was an influx of rural inhabitants to urban settlements. This division showed drastic differences in the urban and rural people – from their means of livelihood, their lifestyles, their sense of community and their infrastructure.

Despite the surge in development, the improved living conditions of the urban settlements failed to equally influence rural settlements. Consequently, a large gap between the standard of living of rural and urban dwellers is very evident.

For a clear understanding of the importance of rural settlements, the statistics are important to heed. In recent years, a historic change in urban population passed the half mark and now only 46.5% of the world’s population live in rural areas. But even with this transition, rural inhabitants are predominantly below the poverty line. About 70% of the world’s poor live in rural settlements.

In spite an overall decrease in developing world poverty percentages, there are still more than 2 billion people who live on less than 2 USD a day[I]. Out of the 1.4 billion in extreme poverty (less than 1.25 USD a day), 1 billion live are rural dwellers[II]. These figures are only very slowly improving and lots can be done in their aid.

Where does South Asia and specifically India stand in relation to these figures. Unfortunately, India is at the upper end of most affected developing countries. 20.6% of the world’s poor live in India[III]. 67.6% of India’s population live in rural areas[IV], over 80% of whom live on less than 2 USD a day.

These astonishing numbers only prove how slow the progress to stability in India is. There are so many questions are to be answered. Where do these people live? What is being done to help them? And most importantly, what more can be done?

[I] World Bank Poverty Review [II] IFAD Rural Poverty Report 2011 [III] Shawn Donnan- Financial Times, May 9 2014 [IV] Rural Population Data, World Bank