In spite of the economic growth experienced in the last decade — particularly in the agricultural and service economy — a high percentage of Vijayawada’s population still lives in the miserable makeshift homes made of scrap plastic, tarp, palm leaves, cardboard, and mud that litter its landscape. Slums have arisen everywhere: around markets, bus terminals, swamps, warehouses, along the river Krishna and the city’s many canals. 263,973 people — approximately 30 percent of the population — are amassed in 136 slums (Source: Census 2001). These sprawling slums, which are quite different from one another, share the total lack of hygiene, drinking water, and sanitation. They are often located in inhospitable and difficultly accessible areas. In such god-forsaken places, where many parents cannot provide for their children’s fundamental necessities, the children are often forced to look out for themselves the best they can.
Care&Share has been serving Vijayawada’s slum dwellers since 1996.
Our intervention focuses primarily on the children in the slums
In Our Slums
The people of the slums are mainly low castes and “untouchables”. Many of them come from tribal communities. These people have migrated to the city in search of work, but lack the necessary skills to make a decent living. 30% of them are illiterate; most work as “coolies” (porters) at construction sites, “rickshaw pullers”, or garbage collectors. The women may find work in the market or as housemaids.
It is situated on the northern outskirts of Vijayawada. In December 2001, as part of the Municipal Corporation’s attempt to move people away from the roadside slums and occupied government land, about 1200 families were relocated to RR Peta from different localities. That figure has since grown to 5000. The government, however, has only shifted families from one slum to another, without providing any of the basic infrastructure. Each family has been allotted a plot of land of about 44 sq yds. The Municipal Authorities dug 50 bore wells to provide water for daily usage. But, these wells are shallow; the little water they provide is salty. The water from the wells is not potable and is used only for washing and bathing. Hand pumps have been provided, but many have already been broken and the ones in use are difficult to operate. Once a day, drinking water is supplied from the town by water tankers, but the people say it is not sufficient to meet theirneeds. Toilets do not exist and the people are forced to use a neighbouring field. This lack of sanitation leads to serious health problems, compounded by the complete lack of medical facilities.
As a part of the city’s slum clearance program, the huts of the Kalvakatta slum in the city center were pulled down in May 1999 and the people were shifted to a location on the outskirts of the city called “KANDRIKA”. About 1,000 families from the slums of Autonagar, Krishnalanka, Ranigarithota and Kalavakatta were relocated to Kandrika overnight, without warning. Each family was given 46 square meters of land to put up a hut. The area, which is now home to 3,500 families, is surrounded by drainage water and the place is infested with mosquitoes. It also lacks the most basic infrastructure.
Alankar is located on one of the Krishna River irrigation canals. Many people there are engaged in the sex trade. Many men earn a living by rickshaw pulling and by promoting commercial sex, while many women work as prostitutes. Their children live in utter neglect. Girls are often introduced to the sex trade at an early age. Young boys work in wine shops and teashops, pick rags, or sell drugs.
It is located on the outskirts of Vijayawada, on the road to Machilipatnam. The area, which extends for about 270 acres, gets its name from the myriad automobile workshops and factories located in the area. Nearly 35,000 people are employed here. It is estimated that 7000 children (below the age of 14) work in Autonagar. About 120 families live here, in small huts by the side of the road. The huts lack proper ventilation and running water and are often submerged during the rainy season. The whole area, moreover, is covered in sootfrom the coal fires. About 300 children live in this slum in very unhygienic conditions, lacking clothing, food and medical
Our Work in the Slums
The lack of hygiene, sanitation, and medical facilities exposes slum dwellers to all sorts of diseases, often contagious. Over the years, we have intervened to treat and vaccinate children and adults alike. We regularly conduct medical camps, organize immunization programs, offer free dental care, and operated on hundreds of patients.
Care&Share has built a school in each of these slums, to ensure that the children – who are otherwise deprived of any educational opportunity – at least acquire basic literacy skills. In some of these slums, the schools we built are the only buildings that are standing, providing shelter to the people in times of emergency.
For years now, we have been running a milk program, whose chief goal is to provide every small child attending our school with at least a glass of milk per day. This helps usoffset some of the disastrous effects of malnutrition. We distribute 128 liters of milk (32 gallons) every day, for a total cost of 50 Euros ($60). We spend 19000 Euros ($25000) a year on the milk distribution program. We have also started distributing milk to 200 newborns in the Rajarajeswari slum. The additional cost is 20 Euros ($25) per day.
We also assist the slum’s many parents and attempt to provide them with the means to feed their families. We have often provided slum dwellers with rickshaws – one of the main modes of transportation in the city – which cost around $280. To others, who work as fruit or vegetable venders or iron clothes, we have given pushcarts ($280). In other cases still, we have provided sewing machines ($115).