Water, sanitation and hygiene – an urban slum is perhaps best defined by the absence of these three most basic requirements of a settlement. An urban slum looks pretty much the same across any metropolitan city –open drains, broken streets overflowing with garbage, houses with no access to piped drinking water let alone toilets. A woeful testimony not only to the apathy of the State towards its poor but also the latter’s indifference to its own situation. However, if despondency and resignation is the sad natural outcome of such conditions, these have also proven to be grounds where resolve and hope have shaped new beginnings.

A Model of Community Engagement in ...

A Vulnerability Survey, conducted by the state government in 2008 was an eye-opener. It revealed, perhaps for the first time, how desperate the situation was for the urban poor. It was clear that for any change to take place, communities and governments needed to communicate. And thus, began this tale of transformation…


Centre for Advocacy and Research has been working with urban poor across many cities since 2005. Its projects and programmes, though not too large in size have been ambitious, aiming at creating participatory structures for accountability, establishing grievance redress mechanisms, strengthening civil society mechanisms, enabling community advocates and partnering with urban local bodies in implementing key schemes. CFAR is currently working in 108 settlements across Delhi, Jaipur and Kolkata.

Initially, CFAR’s intervention in these communities tried to address a wide range of concerns — from domestic violence to clogged community toilets. Creating gender resource centres and platforms such as the Mahila Pragati Manch in Delhi, organising health and awareness camps were all part of the effort. But by 2012 it re-aligned its efforts to focus on the priority areas– Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. The situation in these matters was dire. Hygiene consciousness among old and young was negligible. The slums hardly had any access to clean drinking water. Open defecation was common though community toilets were being built. No sooner were the CTCs built, they fell to disuse and became haunts for drug users and criminal elements. The woes in the slums were endless.

Not a squatter, we have rights

Hiding in plain sight is Saboli Khadda, a settlement in Delhi that came around an old brick kiln, 20 feet below the level of the main road. Unseen by the passing traffic, the settlement was invisible in ways, more than one to the civic authorities. That is, until they decided to claim their rights...

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