Banjara Hills is one of the prime real estate areas in Hyderabad and also one of the most expensive in India. Palatial bungalows of the rich, plush hotels and malls dot the landscape of the area. But tucked away within such a posh area are densely packed and impoverished slums which usually lack the most basic services. One such slum is Ambedkar Nagar. The slum has a population of around 1,200 residents who are completely dependent on a single water tank, which is filled at the mercy of water tanker drivers.
In the past, during peak summers, the water tanker would prefer to deliver water to the posh localities situated right behind the slum. Under such circumstances, the slum dwellers were forced to use water from a dug-well, a highly contaminated water source due to a polluted lake located within the slum.
Adding to the problem was an open drain flowing amidst the slum. Open defecation was a common sight along the drain, with children often falling into the drain.
Health of the residents was affected on account of both contaminated groundwater and diseases caused due to stagnant sewage in the lake.
Given the gravity of the situation, WaterAid decided to intervene and helped in the formation of a Basti Vikas Manch (BVM). BVM is a platform created by WaterAid to enable poor households to raise their voices and demand necessary services from the government.
Post the launch, four active women were trained on making a list of the most pressing issues which the residents were facing. Lack of hygiene and sanitation were some of the core issues highlighted by the residents.
As they started to learn more about demanding services for their slum from the government, the women soon realised the importance of being literate as writing representations to the concerned government departments was a crucial activity. The BVM pursued their local anganwadi teacher to become a member of BVM and draft representations on behalf of the community.
The first major achievement of BVM was getting the Municipal Corporation to sanction Rs 8,40,000 for the closure of the open drain. The initiative indirectly benefitted around 1,000 households, the majority of whom were not even members of BVM.
The gradual empowerment of the slum dwellers came to the notice of local political leaders and other neighbouring slums also started demanding support to form similar BVMs in their areas.
“Looking at the results, others also started coming forward and now BVM has around 15 active members. The whole community is benefitting from the closing of the open drain. Drinking water tank is also filled every alternate day or we reprimand the officers,” said Yadamma, a BVM member.
BVM has evolved into a vibrant platform giving voice to the poor. It has learnt to be self-reliant and take control of the problems faced by the slum residents.
WaterAid is now working to form similar BVMs in other communities to make them self-reliant and demand the necessary services from the government.