By 2030, an estimated 40% of the country’s population will be living in metropolitan areas. In rapidly urbanising India, poverty in cities is growing in scale as well as complexity. To make matters worse, this is a space that is little understood or much ventured into.
It was in response to this situation that Tata Trusts added urban poverty to its portfolio in 2006. The programme, now in its second phase, has three sub-themes: migration, skills and habitat.
“The broad purpose of the migration project is to look at how we can reduce the vulnerability of migrants and ensure that migration becomes a successful livelihood strategy for them,” says Tara Sabavala, who heads programme design at Tata Trusts. The focus in the first phase was on supporting migrants through resource centres that provided them with identity cards, information on government schemes, legal services, etc.
In the second phase, the project tracks migrants from three states — Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — and the places that they journey to, such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat and Mumbai and Delhi.
Telangana’s brick kiln industry, for example, thrives on labour brought in from Odisha and who work in extremely exploitative conditions. Tata Trusts, in collaboration with Prayas Center for Labour Research and Action and the International Labour Organisation, is creating a framework to set up a labour exchange for brick kiln workers to improve their working and living conditions.
The skills initiative aims to provide the urban poor with skills required in the informal sector. The endeavour is also to find job opportunities for the young and marginalised. Tata Trusts has joined hands with corporates, including Tata companies, to give training in a range of trades to encourage skilling and entrepreneurship.
A relatively new intervention, the habitat initiative looks to help poor communities in urban India gain access to housing, basic services such as water and sanitation, and livelihoods. In the pipeline are projects connected to affordable housing design and the delivery of basic services.
In Odisha, Tata Trusts is engaged in a direct intervention to improve living conditions in slums in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Rourkela. The goal is to get slum-dwellers access to water and sanitation, waste management, energy, etc. In Karjat in Maharashtra, Tata Trusts is exploring affordable housing and financing options.
There is also a focus on making India’s cities safer for children, especially children from disadvantaged communities and the thousands of kids who run away from home and make their way to cities. “Unfortunately, most often, such children and their parents have no knowledge of the existing guidelines meant to protect them; they have no idea what kind of legal recourse is available to them,” says Shireen Vakil, who heads policy and advocacy at Tata Trusts. The Trusts also works with local organisations and nonprofits to create awareness on issues related to child protection and access to justice
Savda Ghevra, a large resettlement colony in Delhi, is the setting for one of the ‘Habitat Projects’ of Tata Trusts. The intent here is to engage with urban issues to promote socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable habitats for the poor in India’s cities. The project focuses on addressing challenges related to housing for economically weaker communities and providing them access to water, sanitation and waste management. CURE, a nonprofit, is Tata Trusts’ partner in the initiative. Low-cost toilet designs have been developed and household solid waste segregation practices have been encouraged. Other measures include skill-building modules, training for self-help groups and backing to promote livelihood opportunities.
The ‘Tata Affirmative Action Project’, a partnership between Tata Trusts and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), works with graduate unemployed youth from underprivileged communities in the northeastern states of Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya. Initiated by the Centre for Microfinance & Livelihood, Guwahati, the 14-week residential programme, which takes place in Kolkata, aims to equip young men and women with basic life skills as well as job skills required in the IT/ITES sector. TCS, the official corporate training partner for this Tata Trusts-sponsored programme, has created training modules that have helped 146 youth gain industry-relevant skills, with 123 of them finding placements as of March 31, 2017.
A counsellor talks to a child found at a railway station. Rescuing, rehabilitating and returning such children to their families are among the objectives of the ‘Sathi Project’, which operates in six Indian cities: Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Berhampur, Varanasi, Allahabad and Raipur. The children are typically rescued through outreach work. One of the principal outcomes of this project is that it has helped protect and rehabilitate many rescued children — the target is to reach 7,000 in three years — and prevented them from slipping back into street life.