A call for serious reflection and urgent action

March 6, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Forum of religious

1.  “Globalized Development and the Urban Poor: A Prophetic Response” was the theme of the three day National Workshop organized by the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace (FORUM) at Jyotirmai Society,  Hyderabad, A.P, from 16 -18 February 2013. Fifty three women and men Religious belonging to 24 Congregations from 8 states participated in the National Workshop.

One of the most visible manifestations of the current phase of globalization is its urban face. This is characterized by handing over of the common natural resources to the corporates and policy decisions like Special Economic Zones (SEZ), Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail sector and gated community. It is estimated that by 2050 two thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban centers.

The policies pursued by the governments during the latest phase of globalization have resulted in high profit for the corp orates and phenomenal increase in the income for the affluent elite, on the one hand, and rising inequality, growth in joblessness and consequent accentuation of urban poverty, on the other.  Cities have become the prime foci of economic growth and as centers for attracting global capital and image building, with the result that urban poverty has assumed formidable dimensions. The urban poor are unwelcome by the elites in the city. The nation should take note that the dalits, the tribals, and the minorities constitute most of the urban poor for a variety of historical factors.

2. The five presentations by socially committed scholars who were as well engaged with the analysis of urban poverty helped the participants to come to grip with the enormity of problem under consideration.

2.1 Understanding urban poverty as lack of human relationship, fragmented and isolated existence of human beings, besides their actual state of deprivation of their basic needs.

2.2 In formalization of work where the workers are hired when they are needed and disposed off when not required.

2.3 Virtually the poor have no right to the city in the schemes of the city planners, builders and the elites, though the former contribute much to the economy and maintenance of the city.

2.4 Handing over of the common resources to the corporates, at concessional rate or at no cost, especially of land, resulting in the eviction and multiple displacements of the poor in violation of the Directive Principles of the State Policy, as enjoined in Article 39 of the Indian Constitution.

2.5 In order to beautify the cities and make them ‘world class’ the people living in the slums are translocated away from the city which prevents them from accessing their livelihood in the city due to the scarcity of public transport.

2.6 The urban poor are most vulnerable to and the worst victims of communal violence sparked of by the growing homogenizing and fascist ideologies and fundamentalist sects proliferating in the religions today.

3. The impact of the pro-rich policies of the growth-propelled government has adversely affected the various aspects of the life of the urban poor. Some of them are:

3.1 Proliferation of schools geared to the needs and demands of the new economic policies and developments and consequent privatization of education have led to the neglect of government schools. This new development has further contributed to the existing inequalities in education. Quality school and college education are available to the affluent in the society. As a result the process of exclusion and marginalization of the poor in school education have become more aggravated. The most important social objectives of education have become blurred: to equalize opportunity and enable the underprivileged class and individuals to use education as a lever for the enhancement of their condition. These, now, are not going to be easy for realization.

3.2 The poor are vulnerable to most water born diseases due to the absence safe drinking water as well as sanitation. Increasing privatization of water utilities are creating unequal distribution of water, depriving the poor of adequate safe drinking water, which is fundamental to life and health and a precondition for the realization of all human rights.

3.3 Lack of efficient mass public transport system and phenomenal growth of private vehicles have resulted in congestion, increased travel time, rising pollution level, noise and higher stress level. The poor are the most affected by this development. It is the poor and people of low income who walk or cycle long distances to their work place in Indian cities at increasing risk to their safety because the basic facilities like footpaths and lanes for cycles are not part of the city planning in the city transport expansion schemes.  Widening of roads and construction of flyovers have costed an enormous amount of money to the Indian exchequer. Attention is mostly focused on facilitating unhindered mobility of the middle and upper classes in urban India.

4. The participants of the workshop identified the following as the most vulnerable groups among the urban poor.

About 92 million domestic workers belonging to the unorganized sector who are denied of right wages, job security, proper working conditions and are exposed to multiple forms of exploitations.

About 15 million sex workers most of whom are pushed into prostitution and exposed to abuses and indignities, not to speak of grave health hazards.

Millions of children, who have no home, no security due to homes becoming unsafe for children, are subjected to various abuses and denied of their basic rights.

Millions of the urban poor, who have made the flyovers, footpaths and bridges their homes for 3 to 4 decades, are never considered in the plans of the governments.  Homelessness coupled with poverty and lack of livelihood has made these positive contributors to the maintenance of the city a very vulnerable group of our city.

5. In the light of the demands of the Bible and especially of radical discipleship of Jesus, the present scenario of the fast growing urban poverty has made us aware that the disastrous trend calls for urgent attention and appropriate action. Cities are centers of corruption, oppression and dehumanisation and at the same time centers of innovation and opportunities. God is experienced in the Bible as a community of relationship, equality, sharing and participation. This is what Jesus announced and inaugurated, known in biblical terms as the Reign of God. And, this is our model inspiration and mandate. Therefore in response we commit ourselves to contribute to the restoration of this pristine vision for our unfortunate sisters and brothers in our urban centers and invite all people of good will to respond by working towards the following.

6. And so we resolve:

To evolve a spirituality, that springs primarily from our involvement with the people of our option and inspired by the life of Jesus, which will sustain us in our work for and among the poor

To familiarize ourselves sufficiently with the complexities of modern urban issues. We need to build healthy relationships and solidarity with people who are most affected and offer resistance together through networking among ourselves and collaboration with the like-minded civil society initiatives and organizations

To strive to be well informed of all aspects of the lopsided ‘development’ in order to critically monitor the government policies and development schemes. These competencies will enable us to adopt Rights Based Approach for enabling our people to access their basic human rights.

To treat domestic workers on par with other workers in terms of dignity, wages, social security and benefits, besides helping them to build their capacity.

To put in place child protection policy in all our child care institutions and to create an environment in which children can enjoy their rights as per the UN Convention on Child Rights.

To stand in solidarity with the homeless and make governments accountable for housing on the basis of Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and Lower-Income Groups (LIG) and not caste based.

To put pressure on the government as duty bearers not to withdraw from the fields of education and health care, leaving them to the private players, but to insist on the State to allot more resources to the government run schools and health care centers in order to transform them as centers of excellence.

To acknowledge the role of the Church in the decline of the state run schools by opening private elite oriented schools in the vicinity.

To educate ourselves and others on the gender dimension of poverty, as women and children are the worst victims of urban poverty.

To persuade all minority institutions in the country to admit 25% poor children to their schools as per the Right To Education (RTE) Act as a positive step towards inclusive quality education.

To be courageous enough to raise the issues related to the poor in our own communities, Congregations and Institutions and to remind ourselves of our specific call to preferential option for the poor.

7. Jesus Christ came to announce and inaugurate the building up of human communities imbued with the values of the Kingdom by restoring the marginalized, healing broken relationships and by brining about reconciliation, on the firm foundation of justice and equality. His summons continues to echo in our ears as fresh invitations and calls. As members of the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace we desire to respond most enthusiastically. And so we pledge ourselves to the promotion of justice to all, especially to the urban poor. With Him and like Him we opt to be in solidarity with ‘the least and the last’.


– Sr. Manju Kulapuram SCSC

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