Padamashree (Dr.) Jockin Arputham


I am a proud slum-dweller. There is a war between the urban rich and the urban poor. And I’m trying to make peace between them. The upper classes think of slum residents as lazy, criminal elements out to swindle the resources of the city. It’s the opposite. We are not impinging on resources. We don’t take much water, electricity, public transport. We are the human resource of the city. There is no affordable accommodation for urban dwellers in the city, causing us to live in slums. What kind of society lives like this? We need to give dignity to human beings.

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World Movement Leader, Builder, Social Justice Advocate, Urban Guerilla & Social Activist

Arputham was born to Tamilian parents in Kolar Gold Fields, Kolar district of Karnataka, India, in 1947. In 1963, he moved to Mumbai where he worked as a carpenter and building contractor. He became involved in community action within the settlement where he lived and worked, organising efforts to get household waste collected, setting up informal schools for children, and establishing water connections. In Mumbai and across the world, Arputham has long been an inspirational figure within an alliance of organisations helping slum and shack residents to stand up for their rights, find new homes, and plot a way out of urban poverty. Arputham has worked for more than 40 years in slums and shanty towns, building representative organizations into powerful partners with governments and international agencies for the betterment of urban living. Arputham is the Founder President of the National Slum Dwellers Federation and of Slum Dwellers International which networks slum and shack dweller organizations and federations from over twenty countries across the world. Building people’s organizations, promotion of participatory planning & implementation in urban slums, ensuring women’s involvement in community participation, savings and credit, designing specific interventions in public sanitation & shelter, networking among slum-dwellers both nationally & internationally South Africa and seven other countries in Asia and Africa. He has worked with the urban poor in fourteen Indian cities and several cities abroad as well for more than 30 years. Founded by a collective of slum dwellers and concerned professionals headed by Jockin Arputham, a community organizer in India, Slum Dwellers International (SDI) works to have slums recognized as vibrant, resourceful, and dignified communities. SDI organizes slum dwellers to take control of their futures; improve their living conditions; and gain recognition as equal partners with governments and international organizations in the creation of inclusive cities.

With programs in nearly 500 cities, including more than 15,000 slum dweller-managed savings groups reaching one million people; 20 agreements with national governments; and nearly 130,000 families who have secured land rights, SDI has been a driving force for change for slum dwellers around the world. He realized that slum dweller organizations had to change their strategy. They had to make governments see them as legitimate citizens with knowledge and capacities to implement solutions. So they sought to work in partnership with government to address their housing problems and other socio-economic issues. He has built more than 20,000 (toilet) seats in Mumbai alone. He insisted on new standards on redeveloped housing, an increased floor-space-index. Over the years, Arputham has built 30,000 houses in India, and 100,000 houses abroad. As the global champion for slum dwellers, he visited many countries to encourage and support slum or shack dwellers to organize and to encourage them to take their own initiatives to show government what they are capable of. He was the winner of the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding and an honorary PhD from KIIT University, Bhubaneswar, in 2009. In 2011, the Government of India bestowed on him its fourth highest civilian honor, the Padma Shri award. In 2014, Slum Dwellers International under his leadership has won the US$1.25m Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Now, he has been proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize nomination, put forward by the Swedish minister for public administration and housing, Stefan Attefall, and supported by Ministers from Norway and South Africa.