Response to workshop on a Central project presents RAY of hope

The results of an ongoing survey of slums within the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation — which is almost complete — reveals high figures of unemployment, alcoholism, and drinking water shortage, highlighting the need for inclusive development, as promised by the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), a ‘slum-free India’ programme by the Union government.

Mayor K. Chandrika presented the facts, based on the 75 per cent of the data obtained, during the first stakeholders’ consultation workshop held earlier this month by the city Corporation’s RAY technical cell. As much as 41 per cent of around 52,190 people interviewed so far are addicted to alcohol or drugs, 43 per cent are unemployed, and 52 per cent of those with pipe water connection get erratic supply. According to officials, the physical survey is complete and all that remains is for it to be entered into a Management Information System (MIS).

Although it is unlikely that the trend will shift for the better with the completion of the survey being conducted by Kudumbasree workers, the report has done the needful by calling for immediate support from all quarters.

There is a long way to go before the city can achieve ‘slum-free’ status as envisaged by RAY, but essential groundwork was laid ahead of the preparation of a Slum-free City Plan of Action. Advisory committees were formed, and the attendance of government officials and private organisations was high at the workshop. The Mayor nominated the members which was formalised by the government recently.

“We did not expect this level of participation. Over a hundred persons, excluding the Corporation staff, turned up and the Mayor was present throughout. This level of convergence is imperative for the implementation of the project,” said S. Bhawana, a RAY cell member.

Former Chief Town Planner A. Kasthuri Rangan; Kudumbasree Executive Director K.B. Valsala Kumari; K. Vijayakumar of the community medicine department; Costford Head P.B. Sajan; Nalini Naik from SEWA; and Centre for Development Studies professor J. Devika are on the panels formed. Completing the survey itself is no mean feat. Kudumbasree workers are visiting regions nominated as slums by ward councillors, armed with two forms. One has several fields regarding individual members of a household and the other is a slum-profiling that takes into account the social infrastructure of the cluster.

Moreover, a multi-tier verification system has been set up that would permit data to be entered in the MIS only if all the fields are complete and there are no discrepancies. Thus, the city will have its first detailed slum database.

Out of the five Corporations and one municipality in the State under the RAY scheme, only the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation has received funds to the tune of Rs.71.86 crore. This is for the implementation of a pilot project of the RAY at Mathipuram colony near Vizhinjam, which would benefit 1,077 families, officials said.

A detailed project report (DPR) of the work to be carried out here was submitted to the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation in 2011. A few procedural hurdles remain, but once this project gets under way and the survey across the city is completed, tailor-made DPRs for each of the 192 clusters identified in the city would be prepared. This is a long-term vision for 20 years or so, and the coordinated action by various departments is necessary to implement a scheme of this scale.