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More than marginal improvement

|Author: Shirley|


Migrant workers are forced to come to the city when they can’t make a living at home in their villages. Living in tiny temporary tents typically of tarpaulin, they are some of the most marginalized and invisible communities in Bangalore. Upon visiting these communities, their most pressing needs become immediately obvious. A lack of ventilation, lighting, electricity, toilets, drainage. Solutions also become immediately obvious. Construction of a community solar charging center, a percolation pit, a window. But what do these solutions really solve?


Yesterday, someone asked us a terrifying question: What if by marginally improving the lives of these urban migrants we are just pushing them into complacency and encouraging them to continue living in these difficult conditions now that they are just a little bit better? What if making their lives a tiny bit easier prevents them from organizing or standing up or fighting for their rights?


I don’t think that that’s the case, but how will I ever know for sure?


If underlying issues of community organization or bad land rights, ownership, and speculation policies and regulations are the true causes of their difficult living conditions, should we, in the royal sense, be throwing all of our energy into solving these problems instead?


Does that mean we should all just become policymakers and writers and analysts and give up engineering entirely?!


Maybe...maybe we should...


Who wants to take a public policy class with me next quarter?


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