Need Assessment of Delhi slums

In order to design social work intervention prior evidence based information about the issues of a community is crucial for best outcome. Delhi is dominated by large number of slums and their study can provide ample evidence to plan intervention.

Spread of slums in Delhi : JJ (jhuggi jhopri) clusters are scattered all over the city. Usually they are situated on the vacant land along railway lines, roads, drains and river sides and also near residential, industrial and commercial complexes. The average area of a JJ is 20square meter. There are certain areas where there is high concentration of slums whereas others have low concentration. Some of the areas with high concentration of slums are – Minto Road, Gole Market, Badarpur, Tughlakabad, Saket, Jahangirpuri, Model Town, Moti Nagar and Patel Nagar. Areas with medium concentration of slums are Delhi Cantoment, Tilak Marg, janakpuri, Shahdra, Hauzkhas and  R K Puram. Areas with low concentration of slums are Palam, Kalkaji and Sarojini Nagar (   

General  Problems of Slum Life

Slums are the manifestation of poverty and rapid migration. Most of the slum dwellers are employed in informal sectors like security guards, vegetable sellers hawkers, construction  workers , rickshaw pullers low grade employees in public  undertakings, domestic helps  etc. (census  of india,2001.population totals, provisional in Sabir Ali) facing the insecurity of work and employment (Kumar & Aggarwal, 2003). Most of them are economically weaker  and some of the  basic urban  facilities like water, electricity, sanitation etc.  provided to them is inadequate. People often complain about low pressure water supply and improper electricity supply. Overcrowding , the scarcity of water and sanitation in the slums coupled with problem of water logging during the rainy season leads to severe health problems and the dismal  degradation of human life.    Government has tried to improve the conditions through the slum clearance programs and shifted them to the resettlement colonies but merely providing a better physical structure does not help them in improving their overall living conditions  .  Also they do not get opportunity for any recreational activity because of their  poverty and busy occupational life.(Nangia  & Thorat, 2000).

Since they do not own the land, they always face the threat of eviction. The recent commonwealth games caused a large number of the slum dwellers to relocate from their homes of 15-20 years, especially from the area nearby Yamuna as it had to be cleaned up for the event. Sometimes these relocation sites being three times far from their workplace than their earlier dwellings ( Those areas which could not be cleared nearby the games venue were hidden by  bamboo poles which was supplied from Assam and Mizoram. “New Delhi to hide slums with bamboo ‘curtains’ during 2010 Commonwealth Games”. (

Also the educational facility is also inadequate and  a large number of the population in the slum  are illiterate. “The level of education is one of the determinants of the people’s income and  nature of occupation………..Their low level of education, coupled with low level of income  keeps the people in continuing state of poverty blinded by illiteracy”  (Sabir Ali,2006). 

Education is the most important factor in the economic development  of slum dwellers and lack of education binds the slum dwellers to the  horrible conditions of slum life. Better employment higher income  and better living conditions are associated with education. (Seetharamu,1983). 

Education imparts skills and knowledge and strongly influences improvement in health, hygiene, productivity and practically all that is connected with the quality of life. It plays a major role in improving economic opportunities for people and enhancing their quality of life by building capabilities, enhancing skill levels and providing more productive employment.  Government  has taken measures to ensure enrollment of children in schools in consonance of universal primary education but a large number  of children still do not go to school or drop out of school due to various reasons. According to the census 2001 percentage of literate population in the slums was recorded as 57 percent (Sabir Ali, 2006).

In spite of the importance of education in the improvement of slum life, most of the slum dwellers are unable to emphasize much on the education of their children and the girl child, especially adolescents are most affected. According to India: Urban Poverty Report 2009, 75 percent  girls drop out of school at senior secondary levels. Educational backwardness is a common feature of all the slums in different cities of the country (Thakur & Dhadave, 1987). The reasons can be associated with economic, social or health of the parents. Sometimes children are engaged in economical gainful activities to substitute parents suffering from poor  health or they may have to take care of younger siblings while both parents are out for work, or they  may have to indulge in household activities.  Sometimes lack of encouragement from parents also leads to children dropping out of school. 

Most of the households are nuclear with both the parents working  for a livelihood. Children of such households become  victims of neglect and exploitation as none of the parents have  time to cater to the needs of their  physical ,mental or emotional  development of the children and  juvenile delinquency and  deviant behavior are common in slums (Khan, Dassi &  Unnithan, 2007). There is also  prevalence of child abuse in the form of violence at home or on the street,(Vishwanathan  & Tharkar, 2010) 

Basic Need of Humans

The purpose of the study is a need based assessment of people living in Tigri slum. After discussing some of the aspects of slums and the general problems faced by the people, it is important to analyse which are the areas where intervention by social workers finds relevance. When we talk about the living conditions of the people and the services provided to them it becomes very important to discuss  different aspects of needs. Human beings have different types of needs and may differ from  one person to another. Similarly a group of people living together or a community may have some collective need which may differ from the individual needs of the people of the same community , as well as from one community to other. These needs have to be identified in order to intervene for their problem. There are few approaches to  conceptualize  ‘need’ as given by different scholars.  

One approach of looking into needs is as given by Maslow. Abraham Maslow (1954) categorized  need of human beings and gave it an hierarchical order. According to him an individual tries to fulfill his/her need in terms of its priority for survival.

Maslow need heirarchy

According to Maslow humans first fulfill their physiological needs such as hunger, thirst, sex drive etc. and then move upwards in the hierarchy and strive for their safety and security needs and then for love and belongingness. When an individual has fulfilled these needs then they move towards achieving self esteem and finally  reaches the stage where an individual has fulfilled all its needs and is above all; the person is self actualized . A person cannot reach self actualization without fulfilling his/her physiological needs

According to Maslow, most of the people spend their life in fulfilling the needs which are lower in the hierarchy and very few are able to reach self esteem and self actualization. 

 Needs of an individual can be different from the needs of a group or a community. Social problems occur due to non fulfillment of one or more than one of these needs. Another approach to understand need is the need of a community as given by Bradshaw. 

Bradshaw (1972) has delineated four types of social needs which will help the service providers to differentiate the needy from no-need group.  These are:

Normative need:   It is said to be professionally defined and has a knowledge base. A desirable standard is set by professionals, policy makers or social scientists, against which the actual standard is compared . Those below the standard are  said to be in need of support and services.  

Felt need :  A felt need is equated to what people want . It can be easily identified by asking the potential beneficiaries what they wish to have. Thus a felt need can be inflated due to people’s high expectations or deflated due to their ignorance  or rejection of a particular service. 

Expressed need :  An expressed need is generally taken as equivalent to demand , as the unmet need. The general idea is that one does not make a demand unless one feels the need . Another aspect of this is that people requiring social services are often with fewer resources  and education , they do not often voice their demands.  Sometimes these demands can be perceived as political activity against the governments, hence there is some reluctance for these needs to be expressed. Policy makers normally take it that ‘no demand’ means ‘no need’.  Also culture plays an important role in the expression of these needs.

Comparative need:    Comparative need is  measured by reference  to a user already receiving the service in question. Therefore,  a person is in comparative need if he or she has the same or worse characteristics as someone receiving the service. The concept can also be applied to districts or countries. 

Bradshaw (1972) further proposed  a taxonomy of need in which the four need- types , when considered in a reality need situation , each need is assigned a plus sign (presence of need) or a minus sign (absence of need).  Real need is defined as presence in all four standards. 

Need in other words is a kind of problem which people experience People always strive for responding to their basic needs  Unless and until some basic needs are not fulfilled, the growth and development of individual or community becomes difficult. Therefore it becomes essential to identify the need and assess them. 

Need Assessment:  For assessing need it is very important to know that what type needs are  to be assessed and for whom the assessment is done and accordingly draft an intervention plan for social workers which the study proposes. 

 Significance of need assessment study:  

As the population of the slum is migrated population they face innumerable problems, that is, cultural, economical, psychological apart from infrastructural limitations; and these problems which are interrelated needs to be addressed. 

According to a study conducted by Nangia and Thorat (2000) on Delhi slums, the zone wise distribution of slums show that south zone has the highest number of slum settlements. Problem of alcoholism, drug addiction, juvenile delinquency is very common in these areas. Government has launched many programs for the welfare of these marginalized group  and tried to ensure that these welfare schemes reach out to the people for whom they are launched but the effort has not been fruitful as expected. A large number of people still remain in the state of poverty and deprivation due to the complicated procedure to avail the benefits or lack of awareness of the procedure. 

The problems like illiteracy, juvenile delinquency, alcoholism etc. have been studied separately by different scholars and recommended certain policy formulation , but these problems are interrelated to each other  therefore cannot be focused on separately.  

Also many children  have never gone to school or have dropped from school . In many cases education of girl child especially adolescent girls, is not preferred by parents. Either they are not sent to school or are dropped from school when they reach adolescence, and the reason is not always economic. It has been observed that literacy is an important factor in social development and improving quality of life and the social environment cannot advance without attaining high literacy levels.

 The purpose of research studies should be to assess these   problems  with a social work perspective and identify  the social needs   where professional social workers can  intervene to minimize the problems, like  illiteracy, among the slum dwellers. The aim is to bring the principles of social work like -“people have the capacity to change and can change”  or “self determination”- in consonance with their survival strategy. What they need is an external help to “help themselves”. The long-term solution to the slum problem largely depends on their level of  awareness and motivation to strive  towards a better future,  therefore it is necessary to mobilize  the people themselves for the solution of their own problems . In other words   time has come when we shift our focus from the developmental approach to the empowerment  process of these people .  


 The slums have been existing from decades and they have become a significant part of city life serving to the large informal sector. They exist in all developing countries and the technique to deal with the situation varies from one  country to another since the need of the people is not the same. It cannot be removed overnight from a place but efforts can be made to minimize the problems faced by these population. In order to improve the lives of the slum dwellers a holistic approach should be  adopted for intervening at the grassroots level, motivating the people to take lead to improve their own condition. 


Ali, S. (2006). Problems of the Urban Poor. In S. Ali (Ed.), Dimensions of Urban Poverty (pp.  11-16). Jaipur: Rawat Publication. 

Seetharamu, A. S, (1983). Education in slums. (pp. 1). New Delhi: Ashish Publication. 

Khan, M. Z., Unnithan, N. Prabha & Dassi, A. (2007). Delinquency, Deviance, and Tolerance in a Slum in India: A Quantitative Model. Criminal Justice Studies, 20(3), 269-280.  doi: 10.1080/14786010701617664

Patterns of Consumption and Poverty in Delhi SlumsAuthor(s): Naveen Kumar and Suresh Chand AggarwalSource: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 38, No. 50 (Dec. 13-19, 2003), pp. 5294-5300

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