From slum dweller to Nobel nominee
“Jockin-sir” is what thousands of former and present slum and pavement dwellers in Mumbai call Jockin Arputham, the founder of the National Slum Dwellers Federation and president of Shack/Slum Dwellers International. In Mumbai and across the world, Arputham has long been an inspirational figure within an alliance of organisations helping slum and shack residents to stand up for their rights, find new homes, and plot a way out of urban poverty.
“I am a proud slum-dweller,” says Jockin Arputham, 67, sitting in his office in Dharavi slum. He has lived in slums for most of his adult life, working, first in Mumbai and then across the world, to organise slum residents and improve the quality of their lives. His work has won him the Magsaysay award in 2000 and, earlier this year, a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, put forward by the Swedish minister for public administration and housing, Stefan Attefall, and supported by ministers from Norway and South Africa. According to him, the upper classes think of slum residents as lazy, criminal elements out to swindle the resources of the city. “It's the opposite,” he says. “We don't take much water, electricity, public transport. We are the human resource of the city.”