Despite an overall improvement in the quality of life it offers its citizens, Delhi is home to large inequalities in access to basic services, the Capital’s latest Human Development Report, which was released by Vice-President Hamid Ansari and Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Saturday, has revealed.
Seven years after coming out with its first human development report, the Delhi Government has released the 2013 report prepared by the Institute for Human Development.
From shelter to sanitation, there are vast inequities in average access, a survey of 8,000 households by the IHD for the report, revealed. More than half of the lowest income households live in one-room houses while 40 per cent of households in the top income group live in houses with three or more rooms. Yet, rent eats up a large part of the incomes of the poor; the poorest fifth spend 20-40 per cent of their income on rent, and the next poorest spend 40-45 per cent.
Among basic services, sanitation – and public toilets in particular – ranks as Delhi’s worst public service, with all respondents, rich and poor, agreeing. A large proportion of respondents who live in slums said that they have to defecate in the open, they reported in focus group discussions conducted for the report. Only 50 per cent slum-dwellers have access to private toilet facilities.
While the 2011 Census showed that 81.3 per cent of Delhi’s residents get piped water (the highest among Indian cities), the Human Development Report has revealed that water availability varies widely with geography.
Between 60 and 80 per cent of East Delhi and New Delhi rate their water supply as ‘good’, but this proportion falls to 20-40 per cent for North-West and South-West Delhi.
Electrification is nearly universal but despite having few problems with supply, those living in slums and in the Walled City reported much lower levels of satisfaction with power supply than others. Echoing an issue raised by the Aam Aadmi Party, over a third of respondents from slum colonies reported having problems with ‘inflated bills’; however, many of them were being asked by landlords to pay a fixed charge, rather than what the meter reading was.
Delhi’s transport enjoyed good ratings; buses and the Metro are the most commonly used modes of transport for going to work or school/ college.
Buses were seen as the most affordable and the Metro the cleanest, while women commuters also gave the ladies’ compartment a thumbs-up.
Ownership of consumer assets goes up as incomes rise; 18.6 per cent of the richest fifth own a computer, while less than 5 per cent of the poorest fifth own one. Similarly, air conditioner ownership too goes from less than 3 per cent among the poorest fifth to 73 per cent among the richest fifth. Yet 90 per cent of Delhi’s richest fifth consider themselves middle class. Surprisingly, nearly half of the bottom fifth too considers itself middle class.
Overall, levels of satisfaction with their lives in Delhi ranged from 93 per cent for the richest fifth to 70 per cent for the poorest.
“In areas such as employment, education, health, housing or provision of basic services, access is disparate for different segments of the society in the Capital,” Dr. Ansari said in his speech. “A levelling of living standards across different segments of the population would depend critically on improved access to basic amenities, especially water and sanitation services,” he added.
Nearly 90 per cent of respondents, who were surveyed less than a month after the December gang-rape, reported feeling that Delhi was unsafe. “The crime statistics show that Delhi is not India’s most unsafe city, but the perception is definitely high,” IHD director Alakh N. Sharma said. The lack of safety ranked as the number one problem for a woman.
Women reported feeling more safe on public transport than at the workplace or in their own localities.
Residents of posh localities reported feeling most unsafe in their localities, despite these areas having low incidence of crime, while those in unauthorised colonies reported feeling the most secure.
“A possible explanation for this could be the sense of familiarity and comfort that the poor and vulnerable populations who live in these settlements feel within their immediate neighbourhoods,” the report said.
Migration to the city is slowing down and the average migrant is getting more educated, as the economy of the city changes, the report said.