Jockin Arputham – the Nobel Peace Prize 2014 Nominee – has been fighting for the rights of slum dwellers for nearly 50 years. He founded the first national slum dweller foundation in India in 1976. And also helped found Slum Dwellers International (SDI) in 1999, a collaboration of 20 countries around the world. He is the president of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, which works in around 70 cities in India. Jockin Arputham has worked for more than 40 years in slums and shantytowns in India and around the world.
The 67-year old Arputham was born in 1947 in Kolar Gold Fields, in Kolar district of Karnataka. At the age of 16, he moved to Bangalore and started working as a carpenter’s apprentice.When he was 18 years old, he moved to Mumbai to work as a carpenter. He settled in Janata Colony, and when the 70,000 inhabitants of the slum were threatened with eviction, he united the community in organizing protests and fighting injustice. When Arputham started his voluntary school for the slum children, he found they were unable to concentrate on their studies as mosquitoes were constantly biting them. The problem was that the municipality did not collect garbage from their locality. To show their protest, he organized a picnic in which he asked the kids to carry newspaper parcel of rubbish and dump it outside the municipal office in Chembur. This brought the municipal officers to their doorstep and they began negotiations with them.
He currently lives in Dharavi slum in Mumbai and has helped build 20,000 (toilet) seats in the city alone. Over the years, Arputham has built 30,000 houses in India, and 1,00,000 houses abroad. Through various tie-ups with women’s groups and NGOs like Mahila Milan and SPARC, he has helped tens of thousands of urban poor get access to housing and sanitation. He helped found Slum Dwellers International in 1999 for the sharing of ideas and knowledge within slum and shack dweller organizations and federations from over 20 countries around the world. Just a couple of decades ago, slum and pavement dwellers could be evicted summarily because they were seen as encroachers. Today, largely owing to his efforts, policy recognizes slum residents as valid inhabitants of the city, entitled to compensation and alternative housing.
For his remarkable work, he has been awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in 2000, an honorary Ph.D. from KIIT University, Bhubaneshwar in 2009, the Padma Shri in 2011, Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurs in 2014, and the Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2014.