Slums are over politicised, facing government’s apathy: Robin Raina
New Delhi: For the past decade, the Robin Raina Foundation (RRF) has taken up the cause of educating underprivileged children and providing houses to slum dwellers in the country. The foundation has so far built 2,304 homes under its Slum Home Project, and has initiated a $15 million project to build 6,000 homes in northwest Delhi. Atlanta-based Raina was in India recently and spoke about the challenges of working in slums. Edited excerpts from an interview:
What motivates you to work in slums?
Our focus is clearly on children. When you change a child’s future, you are changing an entire ecosystem around that child. If a child receives the right education, he/she can transform the life of people around them. In 2003, I was at one of our offices in Delhi, and I saw sprawling slums around the building. That is when I decided to set up a foundation which would especially focus on educating underprivileged kids.
Do you carry out any impact assessment of your programmes?
We work directly on the ground. If you want to make a real impact, you have to make sure every penny reaches the right people. If you are spending 90% of money on administration, you are not making any real impact. The intent may be right but you are not getting there. I am also looking at creating a mechanism that allows transparent wealth transfer. When I give something, I will know exactly who got it. Then I would have comfort giving away whatever I want to give.
What are the issues when working in slums since there is a question of legality around slums?
It is not a dampening factor. I am actually in complete agreement with government’s stand that there is no need to have illegal slums. It doesn’t help anybody to create illegal slums. But at the same time you have to give them the right to live. They are citizens of our country and we have to give them homes and create subsidized housing.
I have worked in Bawana for over 10 years. I just want politicians to build a drainage system and take up the issue of maintenance of these houses. Slums are too politicised, and politicians pay attentions to slums only during elections.
What in your view is the philanthropic potential in India?
Firstly, I think there is a lot of potential locally to make a difference. In the present moment, the country is at it youngest from an age parameter. A lot of these young people have the desire to help. The question now is will they be able to channelize it properly. I think government also needs to have better systems by rewarding philanthropy.