Changing the Face of Urban Poverty

Changing the Face of Urban Poverty

Rapid urbanization is a global phenomenon & India is not an exception. For the first time since Independence, the absolute increase in population is more in urban areas than in rural areas. According to 2011 census figures 377 million people constituting 31.16% of the country’s total population in India, live in urban areas. Though cities contribute 60% of the country’s GDP1 large number of urban population lives in slums and on the pavements in really abysmal conditions. Nearly a quarter of this population lives below the poverty line. The urban poor comprise of seasonal migrants, homeless and people living in the notified and non notified slums in the cities who practically do not have voice or space in the urban development.

By 2030, 575 million people, double the current urban population, will live in urban areas. It is estimated that Mumbai and Delhi will be amongst the five largest cities in the world.

One of the major visible manifestations of the urbanisation of poverty has been the proliferation of urban slums. As cities have expanded, their slum populations have risen even faster. This has lead to an increasing percentage of the population in larger cities living in informal settlements.

Oxfam India and the Vigyan Foundation

Oxfam India has been working with the Vigyan Foundation in Allahabad and Lucknow cities on advocacy intervention programmes, which cover the urban poor from across the state. Vigyan Foundation has been working on issues of urban poverty for the past five years. In this time they have campaigned actively towards the right to education for the urban poor children. The have built up considerable experience in working with the urban poor communities and education.


  • Emergence of strong urban poor collectives in Allahabad and Lucknow cities called Shehri Gharib Sangharsh Morcha (Urban Poor Struggle Front). These collectives have a present membership strength of 3000, who are actively engaged in voicing their concerns and demanding their rights.
  • Through proactive advocacy and awareness, 7613 urban poor families from 35 slums have obtained legitimate identity proof, such as ration cards, voter identity cards, unique identification numbers (UID or Aadhar). 1000 urban poor families in illegal slum settlements in Lucknow have now also been registered on the Census Records and the National Population Register in 2010-11.
  • 30000 urban poor (20000 in Lucknow and 10000 in Allahabad) have successfully resisted forceful eviction and obtained stay orders through litigation and advocacy.
  • Over 2000 urban poor families got access to basic services such as drinking water, toilets and electricity.
  • The comprehensive mapping of slum settlements in Lucknow, Agra and Allahabad, under the project, has been widely recognised as an authentic database of slum population and has been used as baseline data by government and municipal authorities in the concerned cities.
  • Civil society mobilisation and advocacy led to increased voices and citizen participation in planning and monitoring of city development and schemes under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission and City Sanitation Plan.

Collective action shows the way!

Located on the banks of Haider Canal Poorvideen Kheda is a 13 year old slum habitat. The residents are predominantly Dalits. While most of the male members in the family work as daily wage labourers in nearby Plywood factory, womenfolk contribute to the household economy by working as domestic help in neighbourhood colonies. Although 125 families were living in the slum since more than a decade, they did not simply exist for government officials & service providers since they did not have any identity proof. They had tried a number of times to get a ration card or voter identity card, but the concerned officials refused to issue these documents alleging that they are illegal settlers

Disappointed by the response residents of Poorvideen Kheda approached Shehri Gharib Sangharsh Morcha- a coalition of urban poor for assertion of their rights. On the advice of the Core Group of the Morcha a local committee was constituted.  The committee prepared a list of 125 residents who did not have a ration card. The list with forms for ration cards was first submitted to the zonal office. The officer in charge reluctantly said that they would’ve to verify the list and the applicants would be informed about the status accordingly. Realising that two weeks had passed and no action was taken the Morcha leaders submitted three memorandums to the local Corporators and eighty members went to the District Supply Office and registered a complaint.  Sensing such a big public pressure the officer had no option but to take affirmative action. He immediately ordered the zonal officer to take action and issue ration cards to the applicants. Consequently ration cards were issued to the families


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