ADDRESSING THE UNADDRESSED.
Of all the difficulties facing the residents of India's slums, many are obvious at first sight. Dwellings are hemmed in without access to water or electricity. Rubbish piles up as children play near railway tracks. Open sewers run through the streets. But though less obvious, there's another fundamental issue that prevents slum dwellers from participating in society, one which exacerbates many of these physical problems - most of the people living there have no formal address.
This situation is a fact of life for slum dwellers all around the world, not just India. Over the past decade, developing countries have seen a huge growth in rural-to-urban migration and the chaotic and unstructured movement means governments are often unable to identify or locate individuals. From Mumbai to Durban, Mexico City to Rio de Janeiro, approximately one billion people now live on less than $2.50 a day in urban slums, while a wider four billion are estimated to lack access to the rule of law. Most of these people have no address and therefore no legal identity, locking them out of the basic safeguards enjoyed by the rest of the population.
It means that slum-dwellers are denied almost all basic services, be it health benefits, retirement benefits, amenities such as electricity and water, the ability to save money, take out a loan or exercise voting rights. As a result, most are reliant on informal or black-market suppliers of services, particularly water, turning to what's known as the 'water mafia' - an extortionate private service. It means that the poorest people in the world pay much, much more for the basic requirements of life than the richest.
In the next issue, Katie Burton talks to those working to address the issue of being unaddressed, looks at innovative schemes being taken with the help of companies such as Google, and asks what needs to be done at both local and government levels to help those for whom an address becomes more than just a number on a door.