Monday, February 23, 2009

Another view of life in India's slums

Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail took a different view of India's slums this morning. While many other web sites or newspapers are ablaze with the news on 'Slumdog Millionaire' and the movie's Oscar wins.

The Canadian newspaper has a profile of a Canadian charity that is involved in India's slums. YUVA India provides food and employs those who live in the slums to cook the food.

Writer Diana Coulter tells us about the growing problem of India's slums and about YUVA India's work.

A United Nations Development Program report released two weeks ago says India's slums are likely to get even bigger. Currently, 42 million people, a number roughly equal to the population of Spain, are struggling in India's slums. By 2030, the report predicts, almost half the country's population will be living in cities that are already crowded.

Meanwhile, India is grappling with the world's largest number of malnourished children under the age of five – an estimated 57 million.

It's a harsh situation that has been developing for decades. But it seems that the success of Slumdog Millionaire has shone a fresh light on these issues. In particular, the film has prompted more international offers of assistance, including some from Canada.

“I think what is shown in the movie is reality,” says local relief worker Deepashree Medar. “But personally, I don't like the title. It's true this is a slum but these people don't deserve to be called dogs. They struggle too much and must work very hard.”

YUVA India gets assistance from the Canadian International Development Agency and its partner Rooftops Canada.

Bharti Bagde is a widow who struggled to support her two children on less than a dollar a day by scavenging for paper to fold and sell as bags before she began cooking for YUVA.

“I haven't seen this Slumdog movie,” Ms. Bagde says. “But this is a good place to live. In the rainy season, the gutters do overflow and that affects our health, but we help each other.”

Here is a link to a story about the celebration Mumbai after 'Slumdog Millionaire' Oscar win.

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