By: Vidhee Garg
On my recent visit to India, I went on a guided tour of Ramesh Dutt Colony, a slum settlement on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, led by Kinnariben of Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT). MHT is a sister organization of Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), with which AHI has partnered since 2008.
MHT was a key partner in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s Slum Networking Project (SNP), which aimed to transform the physical environment of the slums, and has been working with this particular settlement since the late 1990s. The transformation of the environment established several basic infrastructure services – household water connections, toilets and underground sewerage for individual households, and stone paving of internal and approach roads, among other things.
More than a decade in the making, the residents are now eagerly awaiting government permission to rebuild the settlement under the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) scheme, which will give the residents title to land and permanent housing.
Kinnariben (left) with one of the SEWA members in Ramesh Dutt Colony. Kinnariben is one of many field operation staff (called ‘Saathibens’) who interact regularly with community residents, thereby forming an integral part of SEWA’s last-kilometer delivery system in meeting the banking needs of SEWA members.
Children play gully cricket in the mid-afternoon. Narrow alleys (gully in Hindi) between the houses are good locations for children to play while being supervised by family and community members.
A family stands proudly outside their newly-painted home with their recently acquired motorbike in the background.
Entrance to a toilet at the end of a narrow alleyway. Implementation of the SNP brought water and sewerage connections, and toilets for individual households, thereby eliminating daily trips to common outdoor and unhygienic toilets. Private toilets have significant implications for women’s safety.
Clothes are hung out to dry on the external walls of houses in the hot afternoon sun. Alleys become an extension of the house and the space is often used to dry clothes, and store household goods.
Kinnariben (far right) discusses savings accounts and RAY with SEWA members, as one of the three SEWA members continues stitching cotton blankets. Most SEWA members operate home-based informal businesses, such as tailoring (above), papad-making, etc.
Electric and water meter boxes outside each home. The SNP, a collaboration between the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and local non-governmental organizations was successful in providing basic infrastructure to the community.
The community temple marks the entrance to Ramesh Dutt Colony. The temple and the open space around it act as a semi-public space separating the main access road from the private spaces (i.e. houses) on the other side.