Slums existed in one form or the other in almost every city of the world, be it the cities and towns of Roman Empire, villages and towns of India during the post-Vedic period, in various pockets of England and different parts of Europe in middle ages
Social scientists have given different definitions of slums depending on the angle from which they view the problem. Following are some of the definitions:
Slum is a building, a group of buildings or area characterized by over-crowding deterioration, in sanitary conditions or absence of facilities or amenities, which because of these conditions or any of them endangered the health, safety or morals of the inhabitants of the community.
Slum is an area of poor houses and hence inhabited by poor people. It is an area of transition and decadence, a disorganized area occupied by human derelicts, a cache of all the criminal or the defective, the down and out.
It is an area of substandard housing conditions within a city. Poverty is the foremost cause of slum living.
“ As a single dilapidated building does not make a slum, the term ‘housing conditions’ refers to actual living conditions rather than to be mere physical appearance of a building.
A slum has also been referred as any area where such dwellers predominate who are by reasons of dilapidation, overcrowding, faulty arrangement or design of buildings, narrowness of streets, lack of ventilation, lack of sanitation facilities, inadequate open space and community facilities, or any combination of these factors suffer in terms of proper safety, health and moral standards.
The process of urbanization and urban growth simultaneously leads to the formation/growth of slum.
Slums cannot simply be seen as settlements of the poor people in urban areas. There is a pull force in the growing towns and cities despite the fact that they lack adequate amenities even for those who have settled there for a long time. There, also is a push factor in the villages from where people migrate to the towns and cities just for survival and live in slums as no other options are available to them.
Slums can be treated as a transitory phase in India’s urbanization and industrialization only if the slums dwellers are ultimately able to get respectable treatment and live an honorable life.
Appearance – A slum looks neglected with disorderly buildings, roads and yards.
Economic Status – Slum is a poverty prone area generally poor people reside there.
Overcrowding – this is a specific characteristic of slum.
Population – Heterogeneous occupancy is the order of the day. A slum may have separate area of linguistic, cultural, economic, religious and caste groups. In other parts of the world the diversities are mainly of race, language and at times, colour. In spite of all this, there is a sense of community feeling among the slum – dwellers, and some degree of social cohesion. In terms of overcrowding and absence of facilities, comparison with other countries is revealing.
The term has traditionally referred to housing areas that were once respectable but which deteriorated as the original dwellers moved on to newer and better parts of the city, but has come to include the vast informal settlements found in cities in the developing world.
Other terms that are often used interchangeably with "slum" include shanty town, favela, skid row, barrio, ghetto.
Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is a global non-governmental organization (NGO) that manages networks of the urban poor and slum dwellers that are organized into federations; it is funded by the World Bank, USAID and the Gates Foundation.
SDI argue that they work within the system in order to change it. The beginning point for SDI is the acknowledgement that poor people living in shack settlements are and will continue to be the major producers of houses in the world.
Squatter camps, slums and shanty towns represent a real solution to the housing crisis experienced by the poorest of the poor. Contrary to the vision of civil society, the houses and structures constructed out of the detritus of urban waste and surplus are the logical answer to the need for shelter without tenure.
The United Nations Human Settlements Program ( UN–HABITAT ) is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.