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Muslims less likely to benefit from basic services in Kolkata slums, says study by Gujarat-based institute

Counterview Desk
A recent study, sponsored out by a Gujarat-based institute, has revealed that religion has been playing an important role in the provisioning of basic services in the slum areas of Kolkata. "The chances of sufficient water supply reduce by at least 16 percent for Muslim households and by at least 26 percent for wards represented by the Muslim councilor”, the study, titled “Political Economy of Water Supply and Drainage Service Delivery in Slums of Kolkata: Implications for Municipal Management", authored by Indranil De of the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), Gujarat,  and Tirthankar Nag of the International Management Institute, Kolkata, points out.
The study says, availability of water supply in the slum households is in proportion to the “percentage of vote obtained by the councilor in municipal election.” If the percentage of vote obtained by the councilor is higher, there is a “greater the chances of getting sufficient water.” The study says, “When the councilor wins the last elections -- depicted by the higher margin and change in margin – the higher the chances of sufficient water supply.” It adds, “If the councilor is affiliated to the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), the chances of getting sufficient water increases by more than 27 percent”.
Coming to the quality of water, the study says, the local government appears to play a major role in up-keeping the quality of water supply. Underlining that the “quality of water improves if the present councilor happens to have won elections with a higher percentage of votes and a higher and improved margin over the last elections”, the scholars say, “Wards characterized by both high competition and high fragmentation have higher chances of receiving good quality of water supply. The probability of getting good quality water increases by 32 percent if the councilor is affiliated to the AITC. However, “if the local councilor is a repeat (re-elected) councilor of the previous municipal council then the chances of getting good quality water fall by 61 percent. This could be due to less effort on the part of the councilors in governance.”
Based on a survey of 541 households in 23 slums, giving a profile of the slum dwellers, the study reveals that more than half the households in Kolkata belong to the Muslim community, who mainly dominate in Central Kolkata slums. The percentage of Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) households, on the other hand, is highest in the North and East Kolkata slums. Poverty analysis suggests that eight per cent of the slum dwellers fall in the lowest group with a monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) of less than Rs 830.6 in 2009-10. “Muslim population falls at the bottom of the economic strata with 10 per cent placed at the lowest MPCE group. The percentage of people in the top MPCE group (more than Rs 1500) is highest for the Hindu general caste”, the study points out.
Pointing out that “sufficiency of water supply has been measured by household response on the availability of water supply”, the study says, “The Muslim community is worst affected in terms of insufficiency, followed by SC and ST households.” As for the quality of water supply, it was reported as “good” by 72 percent of sample households, with 6 per cent reporting that it is bad. 
“However", it adds, "there are both inter and intra regional disparities in quality of water supply. Going by regions, quality of water supply in Central Kolkata appears to be worst with 10 percent reporting bad quality. Central Kolkata slums are dominated by the Muslim population and around 11 percent of Muslim households of this region receive water supply of bad quality”, the scholars comment, adding, “Religion and caste wise, quality of water supply seems to be at its worst for SC and ST households with 15 percent complaining about water quality being bad.”
As for drainage facilities, things are not very different. The study says, “Candidates having won higher competitive elections (lower percentage of votes, less margin and reduced margin as compared to last elections) demonstrate better chances of good drainage service delivery. However, political fragmentation reduces the chances of better service delivery. Moreover, high political competition coupled with high political fragmentation is likely to lead to lowered delivery of services. Councilors not associated with the majority party might try to showcase their work by delivering services as drainage which is under their direct control.”
Referring to the state of drainage, the study says, “Drainage in the slums of Kolkata is awfully bad as around 9 percent of the sample households do not have any drainage facility and around 76 percent households report that drains are not cleaned even within a fortnight. The distribution of households by drainage services reveal that inter and intra regional disparities exist in the context of physical access to drains as well as drainage services with drains being cleaned in a fortnight.”

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