Life in the Slums of Mumbai

January, 2014

Aparna Bhatia traveled to Mumbai, India this past Fall to distribute solar lights to numerous slum areas.  She was born in Mumbai and moved to the United States in 1997.  She was impressed with what One Million Lights was doing to help light up the lives and dark worlds of underprivileged women, children, and impoverished families in third world countries.

She says, “having been a resident of Mumbai, I know that electricity outage, and shortage is a major problem. Due to the population, industrial, real estate, and economic growth India’s energy needs have quadrupled in the 21st century. Even though the government and industry have devised alternative solutions to mitigate the electricity shortage/outage problems, many sections of society do not have sustained access to clean, safe, healthy, and cost-effective lighting in their homes, on their streets and in their neighborhoods.”

Mumbai has pockets of slum areas in which the residents face many day-to-day challenges. They do not have proper access to clean drinking water, food, electricity, shelter, clothing, gas, toilets, medicine, and education. One of the slum areas where Aparna distributed the solar lights was known as Wadala. Most of the slum dwellers in Wadala live by the roadside where buses, taxis, auto-rickshaws, and cars ply on the roads for 24 hours. They risk getting hit by oncoming vehicular traffic. The area is infested with rats and lacks proper sewage disposal/treatment. These slum dwellers use wicks made out of rolled cotton balls and oil to light up their homes. The wicks are placed in a steel cup or glass bottle and then lit on fire. They are then used as substitutes for electricity. They are not only dangerous but unsustainable. In the night is when the slum dwellers face the most difficulty when it comes to adequate lighting. They cannot cook, they cannot see what they are eating, they cannot take care of their babies or make a living (weave baskets or make flowers) due to lack of electricity.

As she distributed the solar lights, she talked to many of the slum residents to hear their story.

Rama is a female aged 34, has studied up to 9th grade. She works as a club attendant. She stated, “I live in the slum area of Sindhi society. There are seven members in my family. They experience electricity outages and rodent problems during the night. I plan to use the light for cooking and other household tasks. My sister’s son is a student who can use the light for studying in the night. I am very happy to receive the light.”

Shanmugam is a male aged 30, has studied up to 7th grade, and works as a plumber. He stated, “I have two children and now they won’t be afraid at night when the lights go off.  It is hard to get candles in the night. The solar light will be beneficial for cooking and will keep them from being bitten by mosquitoes.”

Jhelu, a housewife aged 30 stated, “Will use for cooking, looking after my baby, will not use kerosene.”

Abhaya is a male aged 18, has studied up to 12th grade and works in the housekeeping department at a hotel. He stated, “I am from Odisha. My family consists of mother, father, and a younger sister who studies in the 9th standard. Odisha is a beautiful place but is going through problems due to the cyclone situation in Phailin. I plan to use the light for reading and writing in the night. I plan to also use it for going to the bathroom and drinking water when the lights go off in the night.”

Rekha, a Flower seller, aged 30 stated, “will be able to make work in the evening and make a better living for my family.”

Aparna has decided to return to Mumbai again soon to distribute more lights the slums areas.  She will work with a local NGO called Dharma Bharathi Mission.  She would like to bring 100 lights with her. Please support her project here:
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