About 7.6 million children are living in slums

Every eighth urban child in India in the age-group of 0-6 years stays in slums, according to ‘Slums in India – A statistical compendium 2011' published by the Union government.

“... about 7.6 million children are living in slums in India and they constitute 13.1 per cent of the total child population of the urban areas of the 26 States/ Union Territories reporting slums,” the report compiled by the National Buildings Organisation (NBO) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation says.

More than 20 per cent of Chandigarh's children are in slums. According to the data, Maharashtra has the highest slum child population with around 1.7 million children (between 0-6 years) staying in slums. But Chandigarh has the highest proportion of slum child population.

After Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh has the second highest slum child population of around 0.97 million. It is followed by Andhra Pradesh (0.83 million), Madhya Pradesh (0.6 million), West Bengal (0.53 million) and Tamil Nadu (0.51 million).

In Chandigarh, a whopping 20.9 per cent proportion of the 0-6 age group population stays in slums. The picture is dismal in case of at least 23 States, where more than 10 per cent of the child population stays in slums.

In fact, in 11 of these 23 States, the proportion of slum child population is more than 15 per cent. This includes the ‘much applauded for development' state of Gujarat, along with other States like Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Goa.

Even in progressive States like Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, more than 10 per cent of the child population stays in slums. The other States, where the proportion is more than 10 per cent are: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Orissa, Punjab, Tripura, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir.

The picture is no better in the million plus cities of the country. “Around 2.5 million children in the age group of 0-6 are living in the slum areas of million plus cities in 2001; this constitutes 27.3 per cent of the total child population of these 27 cities,” the report stated.

Half of these 2.5 million children stay in the three major metros of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. While Mumbai has 0.86 million children, Delhi and Kolkata account for 0.3 million and 0.15 million children respectively.

“The child sex ratio at 921, in the slum areas of 26 States/Union Territories, where slum population has been reported, is higher than 903, recorded for non-slum urban areas of these States and Union Territories,” the report said.

The highest child sex ratio in this age group is 988 and it has been observed in the slums of Puducherry. It is closely followed by Meghalaya (986) and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (965).

In fact, even in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar, the child sex ratio in slums is above 943. Generally, 943 is a figure which is regarded as average natural sex ratio at birth. The ratio stands lowest in Punjab at 822. But the report indicates that it is still much better than the ratio in the non-slum population of Punjab, which is 790.

“This is the first time that this data has been produced so comprehensively anywhere in this format,” D.S. Negi, NBO Director, told The Hindu from New Delhi.

He said that the data published in the 2001 Census was not representational and needed lot of work on it. “The 2001 Census had data of only 654 towns and cities in India. It was not representational. Then we asked them to collect data from more cities and towns. This way, the Registrar General and the Census Commissioner collected data for a total of 1743 cities and towns,” he said.

“But there were lot of anomalies in that data as well. For example, it said that the proportion of slums in Patna was 0.3 per cent, whereas it is much more than that. Many States approached the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation for fresh estimation of slum population in their urban areas,” Mr Negi said.

Thus, he said, a high-power committee was appointed by the Ministry headed by Pranob Sen, the then Chief Statistician of India. “The committee did factual modelling and came up with this data which was near to reality for the 3,000 and odd remaining cities and towns,” he said.

The recent 2011 Census was done on the basis of the recommendations given by the committee in its report, he added.