Empowerment of Bangladesh’s slum-dwellers

প্রকাশিত: ১১:০৪ পূর্বাহ্ণ, নভেম্বর ৪, ২০১৮

Empowerment of Bangladesh’s slum-dwellers

 Nabil Azam Dewan
Despite Bangladesh’s radical progress in recent times, a significant part of its population remains
slum-dwellers. If the government and other influential stakeholders can contribute to the
empowerment of slum-dwellers, such an initiative may bring positive results in the country’s
not-too-distant future.
According to the Legatum Prosperity Index (2016), the world prospered 3 per cent more than
what it was in 2007 regardless of global average or the weight scores of those countries by their
populations. The report ranks Bangladesh 114th among 149 countries suggesting that the country
should speedily do more than its current progress.
Undoubtedly, Bangladesh has progressed enormously since its formation in 1971 as observed in
countless socioeconomic indicators in recent years. Nevertheless, a chunk of its population
requires further incentives to accelerate an evocative progress. For instance, converting slumdwellers
into efficient and skilful human resources would create an inclusive environment for the
country’s overall economic growth.
According to the Census of Slums Areas and Floating Population (2014) prepared by
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2.23 million Bangladeshis dwell in slums referring to 594,861
households (0.59 million). Same report confirmed that 2,991 slums existed in 2014 while the
number was 13,935 in 1997. So, it had increased by 4.65 times while most slum-dwellers being
located in Dhaka Division – representing 1.06 million people. Moreover, their standard of living
is at the lowest level unlike other income groups.
Additionally, World Statistics Pocketbook (2016) affirmed that the world’s annual average
growth rate of urban population was 3.6 per cent in 2010-15 – a slightly high figure. Meanwhile,
World Bank stated that 33.51 per cent of the global population in 2014 was living in urban
localities while it was 34.27 per cent in 2015 – suggesting that global population staying in urban
slums might increase as a result of an increase in the world’s urban population.
It seems that Bangladesh’s slum population has increased since a heavy migration of the
country’s impoverished rural residents to metropolitan cities like Dhaka and Chittagong. These
people mostly aspire to have better fortunes in a city they hardly know. In contrast, they are
engaged in menial jobs such as construction labour, rickshaw pulling, street-food vending, and
working in RMG factories. Initially, they decide to reside within slums for cheaper rents. Those
who manage to earn more eventually switch to better housings. However, their numbers are few
as the majority are left behind with low earnings.
Whether or not the slum population is an economic burden is hardly debatable because a large
number of slum-dwellers are involved in economic activities that help cities to run smoothly.
One may say that rickshaws and CNG-run auto-rickshaws are eco-friendly vehicles that serve the
city-dwellers. Similarly, a big part of the employed slum-dwellers are garment workers
contributing to the national economy.
As far as their output is concerned, slum-dwellers are not a burden at all. Their full potential
should be availed due to their significance in both mainstream and unconventional economic
activities. On the contrary, there are unemployed slum-dwellers who often become involved in
criminal activities – they are undoubtedly a burden for the society. However, any person living in
the slum cannot be treated as ‘aliens’ by the city folk. They must be provided with training,
education, and social benefits as part of economic inclusion. Besides, the urbanised society
should change its mind-set concerning the slum-dwellers. They must be shown some respect
since they are not redundant! A positive attitude towards them may motivate them to become an
important segment of society.
Apparently, Bangladeshi cities are in a dangerous situation due to chronic food adulteration and
environmental pollution. City-dwellers of low-income group including the slum population are
some of the worst victims because they fail to meet the required health expenditure. They should
get proper healthcare facilities from public hospitals. In order to cover higher healthcare costs,
the government should increase budgetary allocation for public health – also applicable for the
middle-income population. Providing sufficient healthcare to the slum-dwellers is a prerequisite
to their life expectancy and further workability. As a result, more labour hours can be added into
national economy.
Likewise, slum-dwellers need more social benefits and training facilities from the government
and civil society to gain adequate skills for improving their living standards Despite receiving
their existing social benefits from the government, hardships remain. Numerous NGOs alongside
the government are working hard to lift the sterile conditions of slum-dwellers, although more
needs to be done.
Consequently, training schemes for the slums’ unemployed youth as potential job-seekers are
necessary to turn them into human assets. Furthermore, lots of uneducated and unskilled
labourers come to large cities like Dhaka but they often fail to get any employment opportunities.
Hence, they indulge themselves into immoral activities for survival. To prevent such decadence,
it is better to give them training for employment and eventually transforming them into valuable
citizens.
Furthermore, here are some recommendations for consideration: 1. Government can increase
budgetary allocation for social security and welfare, and slum-dwellers can be included in the
Social Safety Net Program if not included yet. 2. Along with NGOs, the government can arrange
educational facilities for the slum-dwellers both for children and adult. 3. Low-income people go
to public hospitals for medical urgency hence; the government can gradually increase the
capacity of hospitals as a long term investment. Government can think to also establish separate
special hospitals meant for slum-dwellers. 4. Motivational workshops for slum-dwellers in
building personal and social capabilities – initiatives can be taken by the government through
Private and Public Partnership (PPP) projects.
Lastly, social nurturing of slum-dwellers with sincerity and proficiency would bring significant
impact to the country. The society should avail their true strength amidst severe difficulties only
for the sake of building a prosperous nation.
nabil.dewan@gmail.com