Bihar's poor march in Patna for better living conditions

Access to simple amenities, shelter are basic human rights, they say
Bihar's poor march in Patna for better living conditions

Slum dwellers march through the eastern Indian city of Patna on Human Rights Day to demand better living conditions. (Photo: K.C. Philip)


Hundreds of slum dwellers and homeless people marked International Human Rights Day Dec. 10 by taking to the streets of Patna in eastern India to demand better living conditions for the urban poor.

The homeless and poor in Patna, capital of India's poorest state, Bihar, say they are denied their rights by not being provided with homes or basic necessities.

"The urban poor are not parasites; they are service providers who contribute enormously to the economy of the city," said Presentation Sister Dorothy Fernandes, who runs the Ashray Abhiyan (shelter campaign).

"It is unfortunate their basic rights are being denied and they are forced to live in subhuman conditions," said Sister Fernandes, who encourages the city's poor to fight for social justice and their dignity.

About 500 people, mostly women, marched in silence holding candles and banners outlining their demands through the main streets of the city.

"The denial of basic amenities like a decent living place, safe drinking water, paved roads and toilets puts them at risk from all kinds of ailments," Sister Fernandes said.

The government a constitutional duty to provide decent living conditions for slum dwellers, it's their right, she told

According to the last national census conducted in 2011, some 65 million people live in India's slums, up from 52 million in 2001.

Many of these people moved to cities in search of a better life after failing to eke out a living farming.

Bihar is India's third most populous state with some 100 million people. Up to 41 percent of the state's population lives below the poverty line without the means to afford one full meal a day, according to local media reports.

Many of them live in slumlike conditions.

One of the marchers, Rukmani Devi, said she is a slum dweller and is faced with the constant threat of being evicted from her makeshift home in which she has been living for over two decades.

For Razia Devi, another marcher, the threat of eviction could soon become a reality.

"We have been living in a slum on railway property since 1975. The government recently purchased this land and we will likely be thrown out soon, we have no security."


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