Kanpur’s Slums: Give Us Our Rights and Dignity

About the Video: The Jhakarkatti slums in central Kanpur, one of the biggest and oldest cities in Uttar Pradesh is home to over 10,000 people. The slum is around three decades old and is situated at the heart of city, in close proximity of the central railway station and the municipal headquarters. The majority of the residents are employed as sweepers, garbage collectors and sanitation workers who work to keep the sprawling municipality clean and functioning day after day. The slum also houses a growing population of migrant workers who come to the city from the villages in search of employment. They are the workforce behind the city’s small and large industries that have spurred its economic growth. 

The population of Jhakarkatti is central to the continuing existence and maintenance of Kanpuras a functioning and thriving city. The irony in the facts is that it is this very population that the city has chosen to ghettoize and deprive of their basic rights and amenities. Most of the residents belong to the Dalit community. Come election time, aspiring politicians recognize the huge votebank possibilities of the community. They visit the slum, promise electricity, water, sanitation and better housing among other things. Once the election passes, the promises are forgotten and the people’s appeals go unheard. 

Houses in Jhakarkatti are barely holding up over open drains. There is no toilet in the premises and the inhabitants including women, children and elderly have to resort to squatting near a busy railway track nearby. The people are oppressed by the police. Since their living conditions are still deemed illegal they fear that they may be asked to evacuate or that their houses may be bulldozed at anytime. In spite of the dire poverty that they live in, most of the 10,000 are not even recognized by the municipality as living Below the Poverty Line. They are an invisible horde. 

‘The monsoons are the worst’, say the slum dwellers. The open drains overflow. Sewage water swamps the entire area. Infectious diseases and epidemics run rampant. 

“Not even an animal should be expected to live in such conditions,” says Community Correspondent Jogendra Singh Parihar who has produced a video on the people and living conditions within the slum. 

Community Correspondent says: Jogendra Singh lives in a Kanpur slum. He was born and raised there. He has struggled through the worst of times to complete his Masters in Social Work at Kanpur University. He has since committed to dedicate the rest of life to support his community in their struggle for rights and recognition. 

His video on the Jhakarkatti slum is the first video he has produced for IndiaUnheard. 

He says, “Only a slum dweller can completely understand the pain and anguish of living in a slum. Others can sympathize with them but cannot really begin to understand the reality. My video is an attempt to give the viewers a glimpse into the sights, sounds, issues and concerns of one of the biggest slums in my city.” 

Was it difficult for him to get the people to speak out on camera? 

“I have been working with the children in the slums. I have been helping them with their education, giving tuitions, organizing study circles among other activities. So the people were familiar with me. But there are always a few naysayers.” 

“I told them that as citizens of a democracy they have the right to basic amenities and the right to lead a dignified life. Since they were being deprived of it, they now had the right to speak out about it and be heard.” 

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