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A journey with Delhi's urban poor – Bath Spa University

A journey with Delhi’s urban poor – words and images

Wednesday 24 February, 2021 – Wednesday 24 February, 2021
12:00 PM – 2:00 PM


Part of the Hazard, Risk and Disaster (HRD) Research Lecture Series 2020-21.

In Delhi, almost 1.7 million live below the official poverty line, or survive on less than Rs 1,134 per month, according to recent official data.  At the December ‘Hunger Hearings’, people from across the city - slum dwellers, daily wagers, people working in the construction industry, people without homes, physically challenged persons, testified about the problems they faced. It was a virtual public hearing and affected people participated through video testimonies, zoom calls and by phone. Tragic stories of denial of entitlements faced by people without any social protection were foregrounded.

Being urban poor in Delhi, as in many megacities across the developing world, means not only being income-poor, it also typically means inadequate access to safe drinking water, sanitation, housing and healthcare services. In crowded Delhi slums, it is common to see women jostling with each other at water collection points over limited water supplies and fights sometimes break out in times of shortage. Many informal settlements still do not have piped water. The government does send public tankers into these areas, leaving private suppliers to fill the gap.

Who are Delhi’s poor? What do they do? Where do they come from? Where do they work? What was the impact of COVID-19 on Delhi’s informal workers, domestic workers, street-vendors etc? How are they coping in the time of the pandemic? How are they faring during the ‘recovery’? What lessons can we learn that may be relevant to other big cities in the developing world and the working poor in developed countries?

This talk will explore some of these issues, emblematic of the precarity of the lives of Delhi’s urban poor.

About the speaker

Patralekha Chatterjee is an award-winning journalist-columnist, author, public speaker and consultant to international agencies focusing on development issues across multiple platforms. As a writer, she has brought to the national and international consciousness the crucial importance of transdisciplinary factors in the provision of public healthcare and social determinants that impact health and development outcomes, with a focus on marginalied groups. 

Chatterjee has been focusing on the unfolding health and humanitarian crises in India since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has sought to draw public attention to issues such as the challenges facing medical doctors, nurses and frontline health workers, the importance of health security, the plight of migrants, the impact of loss of livelihood, especially among daily wage earners and informal workers without an adequate social safety net; the importance of primary healthcare facilities, without which it becomes that much more difficult to handle a pandemic.

Chatterjee’s writings have appeared  in The Lancet, British Medical Journal, reports for the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNDP, UN-Habitat, IRIN (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), portals of national think tanks and nonprofits and numerous mass media outlets, including The Atlantic (Ideas), New Statesman, MediaPart, Citiscope,, Liberation, Panos, The New Internationalist, Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor,, Khaleej Times, Inter Press Service, Intellectual Property Watch, The Economic Times, Sunday, The Hindustan Times, Asian Age, Deccan Chronicle, Amar Ujala, The Hindu, Business Line, NewsClick, and Gaon Connection.

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