Are Indian slums an economic asset hiding in plain sight?
India is home to over 105 million slum dwellers, people who live in informal settlements, including those who do not have recognised rights to their land and property. The popular consensus and imagery that is consistent with slums is that of tightly-packed shanty dwellings, hungry and malnourished children, home to labourers from unorganised sector and poverty.
Breaking this stereotype, two reports released on July 23 state that slums are, in fact, a sizeable economic asset hiding in plain sight for many residents and government officials. Titled Studying the Real Slums of Bengaluru and Characterising Irregular Settlements Using Machine Learning and Satellite Imagery, the reports focus on Bengaluru, India’s fastest growing city in the last decade.
The Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, in partnership with Omidyar Network, North Carolina State University, and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, released the reports at IIMB’s event, ‘One Way Ticket—New Migrants, Emerging Settlements, and Stickiness with Bengaluru Slums’.
“What we found truly remarkable in the reports’ findings were the ingenuity and determination of slum dwellers in the face of these challenges,” Professor Anirudh Krishna from Duke University, who has led the research team since 2010, said.
“Bengaluru’s slum dwellers have learned to make do with a robust informal market with lawyers, brokers, and politicians, where there are at least 18 different documents circulating with varying levels of legitimacy and enforceability. These residents need and deserve a better system for securing their land and property rights, and this research is an important step in the right direction.”
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