Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is perceived as a favoured destination of national and international investments, with rapid growth in sectors like real estate, retail, tourism, healthcare, software etc. In the 2001 Census, Kolkata city population was 4.58 million, of whom 1.49 million lived in slums. However, today parts of the city of Kolkata are beginning to resemble more economically prosperous cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad in outward trappings of affluence: foreign cars, shopping malls, multiplexes, retail outlets of global brands, and flyovers mark the urban landscape. But the acute economic crisis of the city from the 1960s has also meant decay of all that made this city pre-eminent in artisan skills, in skilled labour, in industrial ancillary units; in educational and academic institutions; scholarship, socially concerned civic activism, and a strong civil society. NGOs represent more private domain activity rather than rooted, popular public processes.
Moreover, contrary to the signs of affluence, official reports classify 70-80% of slum families as poor. The slums of Kolkata are also the site for extensive tiny-scale manufacturing activities. Several essential products in the city are produced from slums, such as garments, footwear (leather and rubber), paper products, silk embroidery etc. These areas have, historically, been the sites of a large number of small industries and artisan crafts. The major slum-based trades together employ hundreds of thousands of workers and petty traders. In contrast to the newfound vigour of retail malls but in line with the long-term recession in the industrial economy of the state and city, these trades are not in good health. The plight of the workers and owner-workers in all these trades is vulnerable. Slum-based manufacturing is a principal source of livelihood for Kolkata’s Muslims, who have historically performed a wide range of artisan roles in the city economy. Since the livelihoods of a sizeable population are dependent on the different production activities carried out in these slums, GIS can be very effectively used to improve their livelihood.
With the help of GIS, I wish to identify the current sources of livelihoods and incomes of the slum dwellers, poverty levels, vulnerability of the slum dwellers and suggest strategies for improving their livelihoods.