World of Slums: National Epitome of Political Failure and Social Mortuary for Dashed Hopes
What are two highlights in the world news Medias that has reference to slums? In the first highlight, CNN news carries the headlines: “Police launch massive sweep of Rio de Janeiro Slum (http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/11/28/brazil.rio.violence/ index.html?hpt=T2).” What is the motive for this massive police clean-up of Rio de Janeiro Slum? BBC reports that, “Brazilian authorities say the operation aims to make the city safer ahead of the World Cup in 2014 and Olympic Games in 2016.” So, the motive for the clean-up is to make the city safer before the start of two world events. Questions are, what will happen after the two world events are over? Will the Brazilian authorities ensure continuity of safety in the Rio de Janeiro Slum?
In the second highlight, BBC news carries the headlines: “India’s Ambani hosts party for ‘world’s priciest home.’” In the same news article, it mentions that, “The house has sparked some controversy, with anti-poverty campaigners underlining the contrast between the luxury of the house and the plight of those who live in Mumbai’s slums, which house about half of the city’s 18 million people (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11854177).” What does the contrast of the anti-poverty campaigners actually show in regards to slums? Is there a connection between the claims of the anti-poverty campaigners and the poverty of 9 million people in Mumbai slums? To answer the above questions, let us begin by understanding, “what are slums?”
UN-Habitat describes slums comprehensively. A slum can be summarized as densely populated settlements made of the poorest quality housing. It lacks basic amenities like water, electricity, and sanitation. Its people have minimum or sometimes no access to health-care, education, and legal or social protection. The lack of legal and social protection is sometimes directly related to the absence of legal tenure for the settlements. It is infested with diseases and crime. And the people live in abject poverty. How are slums created?
The causes for slum creations in different countries have different reasons. But three prevalent reasons can be gleaned from among the numerous reasons:
Decline of Agriculture-Based Economies
What causes rural-urban migrations? Many reasons can be found for rural-urban migrations. Among them is the decline of agriculture-based economies in rural areas. Decline in agriculture-based economies is many times due to the national economic policy that focuses on industry and technologies. In the worst scenarios, unplanned rush to transform agriculture-based economies to industrial and technology based economies might end in economic and social disasters. One of the end-results of such disasters is the desperate rural-urban migration of people who have lost their means of survival, who migrate to the cities in search of a better quality of life and future.
Younger Generations Inadaptability to Rural Life
Unlike their parents and grandparents, many younger generations cannot adapt to rural life, which lacks many amenities and facilities which are taken for granted in the cities. Lack of amenities and facilities in rural areas are generally directly related to the neglect of federal and state governments in providing an equal amount of resources for rural developments as the cities. Thus, the legitimate yearning of the rural younger generations to have a better quality of life drives them to risk an unknown future in the cities. Their success or failure in making a life for themselves is dependent on many factors: education, skills, monetary resources, social support, and the opportunity to find work. Those who succeed may join the middle class while those who fail may end up in the city slums. It is to be noted between male and female rural-urban migrant workers, the females risk more in terms of all their potential exploitations and abuses in the cities. Any form of uncontrolled rural-urban worker migrations contributes to an uncontrolled urbanization.
Uncontrolled urbanizations can turn cities into slums. Population density affects housing developments and property prices. Ability of existent public amenities, facilities and services, to cope with increase demands of additional population needs may end in failure. Economic opportunities may diminish leading to the loss of a means of survival for the average wage earner. This may contribute to rise in crimes and other social ills, abuses, exploitations and corruptions. It leads to socials situations where dog begins to eat other dogs.
To add to the problems of uncontrolled urbanization, influx of foreign migrant workers, resulting from globalization, contributes to the city slum problems. The motive and reasons of foreign worker migration is similar to internal rural-urban worker migration, a hope for better quality of life and future. But the end result for foreign migrant workers may also be equally the same with internal rural-urban migrant workers – a slum life. The reasons are the same. There are not enough economic opportunities. The results will also be the same: crimes, social ills, abuses, exploitations and corruptions. So, why do all these takes place? When a city or part of a city transforms into slums, what does it symbolize?
Political leaders are elected as political managers to govern the country, its cities, towns and villages with millions of citizens whose basic hope is to have a better quality of life. In accepting the governing powers from the people, the political managers are supposed to fulfill these basic dreams of the people. But when a city or part of a city transforms into slums, it symbolizes national political failure. Any economic lacks or failures reflect the national political failures of its governing political managers – the elected leaders. How?
Firstly, the transformation of cities into slums is an undeniable event that confirms political failures. What kind of political failures? A lack of political foresight, that fails to foresee the dangers of lopsided economic developments. Such failures in foresight, results from a mono-perspective of economic success, both in terms of the type, the means, the range and the category of beneficiaries. In a family, all family members are equally important. In a country that is governed like a family, all the people, rural and urban will be equally important in economic developments. And all economic activities (agriculture, technology, informational, and industry) would be equally significant in contributing to the wellbeing of a nation’s economic. Politicians many times fail to see this simple principle.
Lack of political wills, to design, implement, control and follow-up balanced and spaced-out developments of rural and urban cities, towns and villages. Balanced and spaced-out developments across a country (whole nation), would avoid all the ingredients that transforms cities into slums. It would create more economic opportunities for survival, more living spaces, and more accessibility to public amenities and facilities, and more people across the country would enjoy economic success and prosperity. When people can find work, amenities, facilities, and resources wherever they are, they won’t be an urgent need to migrate anywhere. Worker migration, whether it is local and internal or foreign and external, is an indication of the lack of economic opportunities, amenities, facilities and resources in a country. So, the people migrate in hope of a better quality of life and future.
Secondly, the transformation of cities into slums is an undeniable event that creates a social mortuary for dashed hopes. A mortuary is a storage place for corpses awaiting decent disposal. When the dreams and hopes of migrating people and workers, both local and foreigners, end up in a slum – the slum becomes the social mortuary for their dashed hopes awaiting eviction, deportation or death. When elected political leaders become a contributing factor in the creation of slums through their political failures, they also are responsible for the dashed hopes of millions of their people who hoped for a better quality of life. When people live in slum environments which are social mortuaries of the modern world, what will happen?
An unfilled hope creates misery, and, when misery is unaddressed, it creates hopelessness.
Hopelessness in turn creates the feeling of injustice especially when the slum dwellers look up to see the middle and upper class of people living their comfortable lives.
Their feeling of injustice then creates a fertile mind for criminals to exploit. Crimes in the slums are the expressions of normal people who are desperate to survive because their political leaders have failed them. And the middle and upper classes have no time and sympathy for them. They are on their own. Being exploited, abused and terrorized by even those who are suppose to protect them, the criminals become the slum dwellers’ saviors. Crime becomes a slum culture.
If nothing is done to resolve the exploitation of normal people whose suffering is a mockery of the modern day social justice, one day these very slums will become the active recruiting depots for potential terrorists. For people who have lost all hope, the next level of their exploitation after criminals and crime, will be terrorists and terrorism.
When a country and its governing leaders govern for occasions or a certain category of people, slums will always be a reality. When a country and its governing leaders are happy with the creation of a few billionaires, millionaires and middle classes only, slums will always be a reality. When a country and its governing leaders practice lopsided economic developments, slums will always be a reality. Slums are the creations of national political failures and the social mortuary of dashed hopes, which shouldn’t have happened in this so-called civilized and developed world.
Qualifications: Th. Dip (MTBI, 1978); Th.B. (MBTS, 1982); MSCP (AU, summa cum laude, 2010)
Professional Status: Counselling Psychologist
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Author’s Blog: http://thesigannadarajan.blogspot.com/
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