The self-help group (SHG) based microfinance movement of the past decade
has not touched the urban poor in a significant manner. Success stories
of large SHG networks, especially of poor women that have mobilised
impressive savings and achieved linkage to formal credit institutions
are primarily rural. There is a huge unmet demand for financial services
among the urban poor.
microfinance interventions have had to grapple with issues of migration
(often in the form of forced relocation of urban slums), low levels of
trust and vulnerability to external shocks (e.g. cancellation of hawking
rights by municipalities, seizure of cycle rickshaws, arrests etc.).
Building viable models to meet the need for financial services of the
urban poor (savings, credit, savings linked health cover and insurance
etc.) is not an area of major NGO or donor focus. Funds for social
intermediation, capacity building, infrastructure and on-lending are
meagre. Banks are also unwilling to enter the high-risk, low value
retail credit market of urban slums.
In a large metro such as Delhi, the poor are physically marginalized (as
more and more slum clusters are shifted to the outer periphery of the
city) and adversely impacted by a sharp restriction of their livelihood
space in recent times (e.g. stricter bans on pavement and mobile
hawking, physical restrictions of movement in residential colonies
through the erection of barriers and the deployment of private security
by residents, the privatization of garbage collection etc.) Macro
trends, such as the large scale shifting of polluting industries from
the heart of the city to neighbouring states, have also adversely
The squeeze on livelihoods is reflected in the human condition of the
poor : higher morbidity rates, a higher percentage of low birth weight
babies, lower enrolment and higher school drop-out rates, to name but a
few. This is exacerbated by poor habitat, lack of adequate access to
drinking water and sanitation facilities.
Despite these disadvantages and deprivations, the poor cope and survive.
They rely both on their intuitive skills as well as the opportunities
offered by the physical and legal gaps that they inhabit. They function
in the face of the stiffest odds and an unsupportive policy environment
and represent both a challenge and an opportunity in social investment
and human capital building.
Assist them to improve their access to financial services
(savings, credit, micro insurance and remittances), technology and
markets to achieve sustainable livelihoods.
Improve their access to support services (child care, basic health
and nutrition, functional literacy, water and sanitation) to
improve their productivity, health and physical safety.