Envisioning a Slum’s Future

By Dinesh Lodha, IFMR Finance Foundation

State of Srirangapatna & Slum Development

We have been working with the town of Srirangapatna, a town with a population of about 25,000 people, to create a long term plan for infrastructure development. This work is predicated on the realisation that small and medium cities should be able to plan for and sustainably finance their future in a manner that makes urban development evenly spread out and not concentrated to large urban hubs – which are witnessing tremendous strain on their already crumbling infrastructure.

Towards this end we had prepared a State of Srirangapatna Report, which captures the current state of public infrastructure and service delivery in the city. The report provides a ward-by-ward analysis of infrastructure and also attempts to rank wards based on the state of their public infrastructure. The Ward ranking exercise made it apparent that wards with slums in them ranked much poorly compared to the wards without. Additionally it became clear that the conditions and challenges that prevailed in a slum are different from the non-slum parts of the ward around it, and therefore the development of any sustainable plan for the city had to be nuanced enough to cater to the uniqueness that slums represented.

In order to achieve this understanding we embarked on creating a sustainable slum development framework that we believe will be capable in catering to the needs and aspirations of slum-dwellers and allows them a stake in designing the city’s future. In this regard we worked with the local municipal office and identified the least developed slum in the city to work with. The slum, Ranganatha Nagara 2, is the poorest of all the slums in the city. The slum has 75 households with a population of 283 people.

Slum map

As a first step to working with the slum we decided to conduct a thorough household survey of the slum residents, spanning details like demographics, occupation, income, infrastructure quality and access – housing, sanitation, garbage, water supply, and household daily routines and activity mapping.

Unlike our previous household survey of the city that involved usage of good old pen and paper, this time we used technology for data collection. Our tools of choice happened to be Android powered tablets equipped with the ODK (Open Data Kit) app. The intent was to make the whole process seamless and save on the lead-time that it takes to convert physical surveys into digital format for analysis.

On the first day we set-up a local team of students and undertook a training exercise that covered:

  • Briefing them about the slum engagement process that we had planned and how the data collection exercise they would be embarking on is a first and vital step towards that.
  • Handing each of them a physical copy of the questionnaire and a slum map that they could familiarize themselves with and carry along.
  • As the survey questions were in English, it was essential that we ensured that surveyors understood them well. We had a local resident, who is well versed in both English & Kannada, accompany us through the training session. She translated the questions and the options and acted as a valuable interface in clearing any queries that the surveyors had.
  • This was followed-up by conducting a group mock survey on the ODK app with selection of various yes/no scenarios.
  • We then handed each of the surveyors their designated Android tablets with their name labelled at the back of the device and let them conduct a mock survey as if they were doing their own household survey. While we handed over the tablets with the ODK app pre-loaded, we also trained them in basic navigation of the tablet in case they accidentally came out of the app.
  • We later accompanied the surveyors on a physical walk-through of the slum so that they could orient the landscape to the slum map. Also the intent was to allocate them the designated sections that they would be covering.
  • Later we let the surveyors conduct a few household surveys that we closely monitored and later reviewed to give specific feedback.

Field Surveys

In the next couple of days a team of total 5 surveyors covered the entire slum ensuring no household was left out of the survey.




While undertaking the surveys we realized that a lot of houses in the slum were locked in the morning and the residents usually got back in the night. This was usually because most of these were daily wage labourers and left their houses early. To capture these households we revisited the slum in the night to capture them.

(Streetlights didn’t turn on until around 7:30 in the night, hence some surveys had to be done without them on.)

(And then the lights showed up)


During the span of the surveys, our initial sense about the challenges of a slum being different from that of the ward in general, were reinforced through some of the stories that emerged. Like that of Mr. Suresh, whose life’s aim is to get a patram (title deed) of his about 100 sq.ft house that he lives on along with his wife and two daughters aged 2 & 4. For this he has been scrambling for the past 3 years from pillar to post but with little progress. Or the story of Ms. Shobha, a labourer, whose husband, a leprosy patient, is a beggar outside a church in Bangalore. Earning about Rs. 3000 a month doing odd jobs, she struggles to make ends meet but still somehow manages to send her two daughters and a son to school.

Beyond the data collection, these were stories of hope and helplessness that cropped up time and again. This data collection process is the first step in the slum engagement process and will be followed up in the coming months with workshops with the slum residents to collectively envision and plan the slum’s future. We will share the progress on these workshops and the visioning tools deployed in subsequent posts.