Â· The World Bank regularly consults him for his expertise on the cores of pavement and slum dwellers in India, as does the Maharashtra Government and other state governments.Â· The National Slum Dwellers federation (NSDF) which he heads has 2, 30,000 slum dweller families as its members.
Â· The Slum dwellers and pavement dwellers whom he has mobilized together have now Rs 7 crore in the bank, which is needed for housing, as well as Rs 4 crore as their daily savings.
Â· HUDCO and Citibank cajole him to take loans. Government of China gave him an award on World Habitant day and he has no clue where the award is. “It must be with some Ambassador. I did not go. I have no clue where it is.”
And he himself is a slum dweller. Meet Jockin Arputham (53), winner of the Magasaysay award who via his organization like NSDF, Mahila Milan and SPARC has revolutionized the life styles of pavement dwellers and slum dwellers.
Starting from Mumbai, Jockin’s vision of a slum dweller’s respect and need to fend for them and not rely on government aid has spread to 36 cities in India and to 10 countries outside in India.
“My vision is simple, I don’t want anything phokat (slang Marathi word for free). We are capable of creating our own resources and we are negotiating with the government with our head held high. Negotiating for the rights of slum dwellers, pavement dwellers. Today, we have come to a stage where the World Bank, the state governments and so on interact with us and seek our help”, says Jockin with pride in his eyes.
So one day, the Andhra Pradesh Government’s top bureaucrat sends an SOS to him to help them out as a housing project they had envisaged for the slum dwellers went haywire and killed a couple of people. Then there is an SOS from Kanpur city; which was literally dying of leather pollution and needed Jockin’s help.
In Mumbai, Jockin is working on a plan to make the entire “inner Mumbai” (right up till Sion in North-East Mumbai) slum free by 2002. The state government is delighted that they have Jockin.
And as far as he is concerned, Jockin remains self-proclaimed “ganwar and ganda aadmi” (illiterate and fuel mannered). He lives in a slum at Chitta Camp in Mankhurd area of North-East Mumbai.
Jockin, a slum dweller from Kolar Gold Fields in Karnataka who migrated to Mumbai in 1964 has no plans to ever move out of the slums, never mind the Magsaysay.
“I am from the slums. I will die in the slums. My wife literally hacks me pieces (mentally) everyday and says we should move out of the jhopadpatti (Marathi word for slum). But why should I? I am what I am because I belong to slums. I will not like to lose my identity”, says Jockin, peering through his spectacles.
It is this sense of identity that made him collect pavement dwellers, especially women and formed an all women’s organization called Mahila Milan (MM). This organization, formed in 1984, has since then revolutionised the lifestyle of hutment women.
Among other things, is the saving scheme where poor illiterate women save any amount they can (from Re one to any amount). Along with SPARC (another organization which overseas MM), the organization has collected crores of rupees in savings and is of immense help to poor families who seek loans from it.
Samina from Juna Maidan in Central Mumbai with her brood of children and little income is one among them. Sona Poojari, a former prostitute, also saved small meager amounts, took loans from MM, left prostitution and moved a better life. What is more, with loans taken from MM, she was able to rescue 15 other prostitutes from Falkland Road (a red light area). “I am proud of her achievements, says Jockin.