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New Delhi: The government has set up a committee to develop a slum index at the city, state and national levels to sharpen its policy focus on the urban poor. The committee, headed by Amitabh Kundu, a former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, will suggest a method for developing the slum index by studying various aspects and data, according to an internal order reviewed by Mint.

Kundu said the committee, established by the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation, will try to determine how the slum situation in the country is changing. “We will look at the quality and quantity of slums," he said. The committee will also look at qualitative improvements in slum populations through a slum upgradation index. There has been a remarkable improvement in the quality of living of the slum population with improved access to drinking water, sanitation and electricity, according to Census 2011.

The 13-member committee will have representatives from the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi, Mumbai University, Reserve Bank of India, Central Statistical Organization, and National Housing Bank, among others.

The index is being developed to quantify what constitutes an improvement in slum conditions, said A.K. Misra, secretary at the ministry. “It is important for the ministry to quantify improvement because before sanctioning a project under schemes like Rajiv Awas Yojana, we need to know what the condition is," Misra said. “We can then see what the improvement after its implementation has been. As of now we only see how much money has been invested in the scheme."

“If you have elimination of slums as a target, you need a measure to tell you at what level you are starting from and where you are heading towards. This is where indices come in," said Pronob Sen, chairman of the National Statistical Commission.

While Sen estimated India’s slum population to be around 95 million, the census in 2011 put the figure at 65 million. Sen said the varying figures are because of differences in methodology. While in the census, an area with 60-70 households was defined as a slum, the Sen Committee defined an area with 20 households as a slum.

Slum data released in March 2013 for Census 2011 had pointed out that around one out of every six households in urban India (17.4%) live in a slum. It had also shown that well over a third of all slum households (38%) are in cities with a population in excess of a million.

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