Tag Archives: slum

More Mumbai………..

Here are some more of the sites we visited in Mumbai.

This traffic sign was a little unnerving. Just in case you cannot read it, it says “Don’t touch unclaimed articles, they could be explosives.” Yeah, welcome to Mumbai. Of course, they are cautious – they have experienced real threats of danger and actual danger firsthand. But it wasn’t exactly the salutation I was hoping for. And, yes, I left all unclaimed articles very much untouched. Thank you very much.

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We spent most of the time in the car because we just did not have that much time to get out at each stop. But, the slums are very big and overwhelming even in drive by mode.

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But of course, there is beauty too. These are the hanging gardens. If you are in a hurry, you can really skip this part – but if you just want to take a short walk on pretty grounds, this is a lovely place to do it. They have a few shrubs that are cut in to the shapes of animals which were fun to see and some beautiful flowers.

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As we were driving near one of the train stations, we saw walls and walls of graffiti. There are some very talented graphic artists on the streets of Mumbai.

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This is one of the train stations. And it is true that there are compartments that only women ride in.

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We also passed by this flower market.

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I have more to share – but I know too many photos make a slow computer, so come back soon for More, More Mumbai.

Follow-up………

Not too long ago, I wrote a post that generated quite the discussion on credit and credit cards in India. As a followup to that, I thought you might find this positive article interesting. It came from one of the Outreach members of the American Women’s Association in Delhi. (You’ll notice the difference in writing in India – in the U.S., the word scheme would immediately hint at a negative program – but this is a positive article.)

Launch of Credit Scheme for Slum Dwellers

Asha made history on Tuesday 28th April by launching a loan scheme for the slum dwellers of India in collaboration with The Ministry of Finance, Govt of India and 9 national banks. The Chief Guest at the function was Mr. Arun Ramanathan, Secretary (Banking), Ministry of Finance, Govt of India, the senior most civil servant in the Banking Division of the Govt of India. The Guests of Honour were Dr KC Chakrabarty, Chairman and Managing Director, Punjab National Bank, and Mr. Gautam Kanjilal, Chief General Manager of State Bank of India, the national heads of the two largest banks in the country.

Dr Kiran Martin, Founder & Director of Asha, delivers the welcome address

Also present were the Chiefs of the other 7 national banks, the New Zealand High Commissioner to India, Mr. Rupert Holborow, Deputy British High Commissioner Mr. Creon Butler, Irish Deputy Head of Mission Pat Bourne, diplomats, dignitaries and over 300 slum dwellers from all over the city.

Loans were given to slum dwellers from all over Delhi for a diverse range of purposes, including the opening and expansion of shops and businesses, purchase of vehicles and construction or improvement of homes. 58% of the borrowers were females and 42% were males. The cheques were distributed to the borrowers on stage by the Chief Guest and the Guests of Honour, in the presence of Asha’s Founder and Director Dr. Kiran Martin and other Asha trustees.

Chief Guest Mr Arun Ramanathan, Secretary (Banking Division), Ministry of Finance, Govt. of India hands out loan cheques to slum dwellers

Dr Martin, the initiator as well as the driving force behind this scheme, remarked in her speech that, when properly implemented, the scheme can greatly increase the country’s GDP through creation of national wealth, and said that “by becoming a force for liberation and transformation, we will be able to change the social and economic landscape of our country”.

This is for the very first time in the history of our country that slum dwellers have been able to directly access formal banking services, a process known as financial inclusion. They have so far always been financially excluded, and have been relying on loan sharks and other exploitative arrangements for their financial needs. This scheme enables slum dwellers to open zero balance bank accounts and receive loans at a very low rate of interest with no collateral required. The application procedures have been made very simple and the loan amount can be as low as US$100 or as high as US$5000, depending on the profile and the repayment capacity of the borrower. The repayment period is between 2 and 5 years, but there are no penalties for early repayment.

Slum dwellers and borrowers from all over the city attend the function

The pilot scheme implemented by Asha and these banks in 2008 created a very substantial enhancement in family incomes and standard of living, and a stunning repayment rate of 99%, proving to all that slum dwellers were indeed bankable. The phenomenal success of the pilot resulted in the Ministry of Finance and the national banks taking a policy decision to implement this scheme all over Delhi and then India.

The major difference between this revolutionary scheme and the traditional self help groups is that in this scheme, each slum dweller has a direct relationship with the bank, and can access the same banking services as any other Indian citizen. The interest rate on loans is much lower (9%) than that paid by members of self-help groups (18-22%), because of the high administrative costs of running the self-help groups and the involvement of intermediaries. Also, most importantly, the loans given to members of self-help groups are very small, usually not more than US$300. This is often insufficient to make a substantial difference to the living standards of a slum family.

Slum dwellers are establishing their creditworthiness in the market, are able to participate in formal economic activity, and are joining the mainstream of society. They will experience not just a cosmetic effect, but a very real improvement in their standard of living, as has already been demonstrated by the 2008 pilot scheme. They can now hold the hope of leading a life of dignity just like other citizens of our country.

Banks are making profits based on large volumes, through funds in the current accounts of slum dwellers, giving loans and receiving prompt repayments, and providing other banking services such as remittances.

The same 24 hours…………

We all meet people throughout our lives who seem to be able to stretch the clock. They make more happen in one day than it seems possible to accomplish in a full year. And yet they do it – over and over again. We are left to marvel and wonder – do they eat, do they sleep, do they have a magic vitamin, have they been invaded by aliens? Where do they get their energy from?

Let me introduce you to Anou. She created Project Why.

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In short, she created Project Why to help those who cannot help themselves. Of course, the story goes much deeper than that and it begins with her own daughter. Anou’s daughter struggled with the academic challenges of school. When I first met her, she laughed that she did what every good parent does and told her she did not have to go back. Then she resolved to help those children who struggled in this world.

This is Rani. She came to Project Why when she was 15 from not the best of circumstances. She exemplifies why Project Why is so important. She is now traveling the world to share Project Why’s story. She is a confident, beautiful, unassuming, and gracious young lady – her life is better because Anou carved out enough minutes in her day to help her. And now she is making her own difference in the world – carving out her own minutes.

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This is Meher. When Meher was a little bitty thing, she was burned terribly. I am not exactly clear what happened. But it doesn’t really matter – Meher needed some angels to lift her up and help her along her life’s journey. Guess who spread her wings once again? Anou and Project Why. They have raised enough money to help Meher with reconstructive and plastic surgeries. She is a vibrant girl who is full of joy and laughter and I believe a good dose of mischief. She lights up the room. And I am sure eventually she will light up the world.

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This school is one of the centers that Project Why uses to help children who live in slums. If I understood it correctly, they attend government schools as well, but Project Why teachers supplement their studies with much needed extra help. The boys go in the morning and the girls come in the afternoon.

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This is what the neighborhood looks like right outside the school.

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The American’s Womens Association had donated money for building materials for a roof for the school house – so these boys presented our Outreach Chair with a beautiful handmade card.

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We also went to visit the Women and Children’s Center. Here women learn to sew and how to become beauticians and children up to about age 14 take classes.

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I think this is their guard cow. He’s on it.

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This is another classroom. The children here were learning math.

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No, I did not offer to tutor. Remember, they are trying to improve their math skills. Ironically, this almost looks like something you would see in a shabby chic catalog.

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True to her original mission, Anou opened a center for mentally disabled children. Across the street from this center is also a residential center where a few of the children live.

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This girl could put any bollywood dancer to shame. She was magnificent.

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I had never heard of brittle bones disease until yesterday. This little girl has it. There is no cure. Her bones are deteriorating at a ridiculous rate and she will die from the complications from this disease – probably sooner than later. She is a bright, enthusiastic child who is eager to learn. She gets to do just that at Project Why.

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There is so much more to Project Why than just this blog post. Anou and Project Why help over 700 children in 7 locations throughout Delhi. They have made it possible for several children to receive open heart surgeries through their Hear Fix Hotel. They have given local women a safe place to fall when they need to escape from the toils of their daily lives. Project Why has taken in disabled children and given them a home. Five children from the slums are now attending a boarding school and are getting a proper education. The list goes on.

So I spent my day yesterday with some amazing people who stretch the bounds of compassion and generosity beyond all reasonable limits. Their clocks do not tick in real time – their clocks allow them to add minutes to each hour with spaces in between where kindness grows and humanity flourishes.

At the end of the day, I felt pretty much like an underachiever, realizing that I hold my minutes too tightly together and lose too many of them for no good reason. I realized how ungrateful I am at times for the complaints I have voiced in my life and I hope to spend my time, talents, and energy more wisely. I am sure to fall flat on the face of my watch with those ambitious goals – but I can dust myself off and start a new until I get it right.

There are a lot of different ways to support Project Why if you are so inclined. Here is a link if you are interested – Support Project Why.