When McKinsey Global Institute said in a report that of the 600 cities that will drive global growth in the coming decade, 440 will be in emerging economies including 28 cities in India, it may have sounded pretty optimistic. Faster economic activity, centred in and around major cities, has increased labour migration but the existing urban infrastructure has failed to cope up in providing decent acccomodation to all resulting in the mushrooming of slums in not just Tier-I cities but also in Tier-II cities. It was quite a surprise when the National Sample Survey for the 69th round showed the number of slums in India declined to 33,510 in 2012 from 48,994 in 2009. However, an increase in the sample size to include part-slums with less than 20 households and adoption of a different methodology presents a completely different picture—slums have actually grown by 12% per annum from 24,685 in 2009 to 33,510.
Whichever way one looks at the data, the number of slums is pretty high by any standard and it only speaks of how dismal our town planning is and how bad the living conditions are for the 9 million people who live in the slums. What's worrying, the government's flagship scheme JNNURM has benefited just 24% of the slums—32.3% in case of notified and 18% in the case of non-notified slums. Compared to 2009, there has been some improvement in basic amenities—59.6% of slums have pucca structure in 2012 as against 56.9% in 2009 while 65% now have electricity connections as against just 36% before. However, water supply and sanitation problems have aggravated—71.4% of slums have tap water as a major source of drinking water in 2012 as against 77.8% in 2009 while the percentage of slums not having sanitation facilities have risen to 31.3% from 14.7% and proportion of slums having no drainage system rose to 30.9% from 16%. No matter how fast cities or the economy grows, slums are a black spot on the inclusive agenda.