Time: 5 AM, Location : Small house located in Dharavi, Mumbai
(Aai chikni Chameli, chhup ke akeli…………………..) a bollywood song is ringing as alarm tone on a Chinese mobile handset in background.
Sudha Deshpande, the 35-year-old lady of the house wakes up, looks at her ringing mobile and switches the alarm off. She takes 5-6 buckets from her house and goes down the stairs to keep her buckets in a long queue to get water from a shared connection of her basti. It is her usual morning; she has to wake early so that she can get enough water for a day. But even upon waking up at 5AM, there are still ten people ahead of her in the long queues of blue-red-yellow-grey buckets of different households that live in her locality. She shouts and cribs about her fate, abuses her neighbors and keeps her buckets, haggling her way to the 6th position. The local Municipal Corporation provides water around 10 AM but she has to struggle daily to get enough water for her family. This is only the start of her struggles for the day as she heads back to her house upstairs, which has a single room with an open kitchen and again a shared toilet in the basti.
Let’s note some of the interesting facts about the vicinity where Sudha is staying with her three kids aged 6, 7 and 12. Dharavi is known as the biggest slum in the world, with the populace of 1-1.5 million people and covering an area of only 1 square meter. That’s not the only appalling fact of this slum. Lets’ go back to Sudha’s story.
Day: Post dealing with her first step towards her regular battle for water, she has to rush to a community washroom, where the queue is endless as there is only one toilet for 1400 odd people.
Her kids usually go to the nearby railway tracks to attend the nature’s call as for them it is very difficult to wake up so early to stand in line at the toilet. In fact they actually enjoy the railway tracks.
Sudha’s kids go to a municipal, vernacular medium school. The younger ones (6 and 7 year old) are in the 2nd grade and the eldest one is in 5th grade. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) runs around forty- odd tuition free schools in Dharavi, but all of them cater to only primary education. There is only one secondary school run by the BMC however; it is only up to 10th standard.
This is a usual day not only for Sudha, but like her almost 1.5 million people that are staying in similar circumstances. They are now used to this lifestyle – wake up early, long queues to get water, lucky enough to get a loo to attend nature’s call, checking messages on mobile phones, playing games on mobile phones and receiving calls from their clients on mobile phones.
In this usual day, a young entrepreneur finds out one common and promising connection. While necessities are a struggle, the mobile phone is a lifeline for all of them. She develops a unique model where the mobile phone can be used to change their lives to provide them necessities of drinking water, sanitation, and education. The idea, mPaani commenced its pilot projects in Sewari and Dharavi, two major slums of Mumbai
“m.Paani” focuses on making a social impact through the spending of the communities on their mobile recharge into redeemable loyalty points for the cause of sanitation, water, education and much more. The objective is to change the lives of the under-served communities by channelizing their mobile spending into significant loyalty based points, which they can utilize for specific causes of education, sanitation, water, energy, etc.
Assistant Professor, Finance