I live in a cooperative housing society in Mira Road, a suburb just outside the municipal limits of Mumbai.
We get municipal water supply to our building. The cost of water per year is around 300,000. We are a society of 65 residents. It costs me around 400 rupees per month to get clean water in my house. The same water supply is used for drinking and all other purposes. We don’t have a bore well for supply of water for flushing purposes. My per day cost of water works out to just about 14 Rupees per day. We consume on an average 1000 liters in our family of 8 people. Thus you can say that I get water at around 1.4 paise per liter.
Now there is a slum pocket very near to my home. The people who live in this slum pocket don’t have access to clean drinking water. They buy water from a water tanker. The source of water of the water tanker is either a bore well or some stream somewhere. They pay 200 Rupees per drum of water. The drum capacity is around 200 Liters. Thus they are paying a rupee per liter.
Same is the case with electricity. They don’t have clear land title to their shanties, thus they ‘buy’ electricity from some ‘slum-lord’ who is stealing the electricity from somewhere. They pay a fixed price for the power supply. They are restricted to what they can use, a fan, a couple of lights is all that they are allowed.
They have a variable income, therefore they buy food depending on the day’s income. They buy vegetable oil worth Rs 5 or Rs 10/-, such small packets are sold at a premium by the local grocery store and these people can’t even bargain, they take whatever is given.
These poor people dare not enter a discount store like D-Mart to buy their stuff thus they end up paying way more than others like us.
All these small things add to their poverty.
As all these poor live in illegal slum pockets, they don’t have any document to prove their right or title to the house that they use. This absence of title prevents them from raising any money to start a small business, they have been bypassed by our banking system and are thus at the mercy of those who employ them and who invariably end up exploiting them one way or another.
This cycle needs to be broken. And it can be done easily if the government agrees to give them title to the plot of land on which their houses stand. It will be said that such award of title will promote illegal occupation but then Slum Rehabilitation’s are doing exactly the same, so why deny them till they agree to vacate the land for some rich builder to build on the land anyway occupied by them?