Anita and Ramendra have been working with the urban poor and slum dwellers of Delhi since 1991. Starting with a few slums in Vikaspuri (West Delhi) where they worked intensively towards providing and/or improving water supply, electricity, schools, toilets, PDS, and informal banking services, their reach now extends to more than 70 slums and resettlement colonies. Since 2006, they have been leading the struggle for Right to Life with Dignity for Urban Poor and Workers with a special emphasis on Right to Housing.
What is the meaning of development? Who is responsible for it? What is the difference between development and charity? These are some of the questions that Ramendra and Anita were occupied with as they began working in the development sector in the late 1980s. Ramendra had completed his post graduation in Rural development from the Xavier’s Institute of Social service, Ranchi, and Anita had studied Sociology from Delhi University. In 1991, first Anita and soon Ramendra, decided to take a leap into the unknown. They quit their NGO jobs and started out on their own.
They began working in 6-7 slums located near their house in Vikaspuri (West Delhi). The aim was not to solve the problems for the people, but to give them the information and confidence that would enable them to find their way in the labyrinth of the city’s offices and authorities, and claim what was their due. They initiated a process of collective thinking, discussion, decision making and action that led to the formation of the Dilli Shramik Sangathan (DSS) in 1994.
In 2005-6, responding to the changes in the State’s attitude towards slum dwellers, Ramendra and Anita shifted their focus from effective governance to housing rights for the poor. The sangathan’s efforts have resulted in significant changes in the government policies and have successfully put an end to large scale slum demolitions in Delhi.