Welfare of the urban poor cannot be an afterthought in economic growth plans

Source: The post is based on an article “Welfare of the urban poor cannot be an afterthought in economic growth plans” published in the Indian Express on 8th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Inclusive Growth

Relevance: Urban Poor Wellbeing

News: In recent period, many migrants have come back to cities in search of work. They went back to their villages during the covid pandemic-induced lockdown.

What are the issues facing the urban poor?

The social protection-related registration of informal workers has increased, but the nature of opportunities continues to be insecure.

At present, mechanisation is resulting in the greater displacement of people dependent on farms.

The trail of migrants in search of livelihoods is going to increase in the coming future. For example, half of India is expected to urbanize by 2030 and at least half of that population would be such migrants.

There are challenges of access to public services, for migrants in urban areas. For example, healthcare costs have gone up, and the cost of essential commodities, other than free food grains, has also increased. Further, nearly half the urban population does have access to cheap food grains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Most migrants including domestic help received lower than the minimum wages in the urban areas.

India’s large cities are among the most segregated. This is in contrast to B R Ambedkar’s hope that urbanisation will break caste hierarchies.

What can make the lives of the urban poor better in the short to medium term?

(1) There is a strong case for elected leadership in urban local bodies (ULB) at the slum cluster level. The Article 243S (5) of the Constitution allows the State Legislature(s) to make provision for the Constitution of Committees in addition to the Ward Committees in a ULB.” Therefore, the government can establish such a committee at the level of basti or the slum cluster.

(2) In addition to the portability of names and cards to access grains, there is a need to identify the deprived households without access to the NFSA list. This can be done through a participatory identification of the poor through a community connect process. Further, non-entitled beneficiaries of NFSA should also be deleted.

(3) After the identification of the deprived households, the special community connects campaigns should be started to ensure access to social welfare schemes. For example, LPG connection, bank accounts, etc.

(4) The government should form SHGs of the deprived households under the National Urban Livelihood Mission. Access to credit for diversification of livelihoods should be promoted.

(5) The government needs to establish Migration Support Centres, for easing the arrival process of migrants to cities in search of work. Here, services for easy rental housing, etc. be provided.

(6) There is a need for skilling, upskilling, and re-skilling poor households in ways that enable them to combine work with skill up-gradation. In addition, apprenticeships should be provided.

(7) The urban local bodies set up specially designated teams for the poor. They can increase property tax for it. To implement it, the ULB requires governance reforms and professionals with specialized skill sets.

(8) The government should leverage census towns and many rural growth clusters that were developed as part of the Rurban Mission. They can be developed as robust growth centres. Specific economic activity can be started at the clusters.

(9) Efforts should be made for human development through the improvement of schools, health facility expansion, etc. The Atmanirbhar Health Infrastructure Yojana has been launched, which has prioritized strengthening urban health centers and the creation of frontline health teams.

(10) There is a need to enforce minimum wages. For example, domestic help needs support for wages.

(11) Master Plans must factor in the housing, wellbeing, and welfare needs of the working class or the urban poor.

To make rapid economic progress, India needs to improve the well-being of the workforce that migrates to cities in the hope of a better life.

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