Masters of arts in development studies

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Graduate School of Development Studies

arginalization to Citizenship:

Marginalization and Strategies of Responses of Urban Poor Youth in Salem, India.

A Research Paper presented by:

Amala Jeyarayan Amirthanathan


in partial fulfilment of the requirements for obtaining the degree of



(Children and Youth Studies)


Members of the examining committee:

Dr.Auma Okwany (Supervisor)

Dr.Arjan de Haan (Reader)

The Hague, The Netherlands

November, 2009


This document represents part of the author’s study programme while at the Institute of Social Studies. The views stated therein are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institute.

Research papers are not made available for circulation outside of the Institute.

Postal address: Institute of Social Studies

P.O. Box 29776
2502 LT The Hague
The Netherlands

Location: Kortenaerkade 12

2518 AX The Hague
The Netherlands

Telephone: +31 70 426 0460

Fax: +31 70 426 0799


List of Tables v

List of Acronyms v

Abstract vi

Acknowledgements vii

Chapter -1

Introduction 1

    1. Justification and Relevance 3

    2. Research Objectives 6

    3. Research Questions 6

    4. Research Methodology 7

      1. Focus Group Discussion 7

      2. Semi-Structured Interviews 9

      3. Observation and Informal Meetings 10

      4. Secondary Data 10

    5. Scope and Limitations 11

Chapter -2

Social Exclusion and Urban Poor Youth 12

    1. Social Exclusion 12

    2. Poverty and Social Exclusion 14

    3. Castes and Social Exclusion 16

    4. Religion and Social Exclusion 20

    5. Urban Poor Youth and Social Exclusion 21

    6. Social Exclusion as Denial of Citizenship Rights 26

    7. Marginalized Urban Poor Youth 27

    8. Youth Agency Towards Citizenship Rights 30

Chapter – 3

Experiences of Social Exclusion and Strategies of Responses 33

    1. Caste and Class Discriminations 33

    2. Education and Employment 36

    3. Socialization, Rest and Recreation 40

    4. Legal Documents and Political and Civil Participation 44

    5. Caste Domination and Adult Dominations 45

    6. Gender Discriminations 46

    7. Police Atrocities 48

    8. Marriage and Family 50

    9. Strategies of Responses 51

      1. Education and Employment 52

      2. Socialization and Recreation 53

      3. Political and Civil Participation 54

      4. Gender Discriminations 55

      5. Caste and Police Atrocities 56

      6. Marriage and Family 57

3.10 Role of NGOs and Other Organizations 58
Chapter – 4

Conclusion 59

References 61


  1. Map of Tamil Nadu 66

List of Tables
Table 1 Population Projection in Tamil Nadu 1
Table 2 Youth Population - India and Tamil Nadu – 2001 (13- 35 years) 4
Table 3 Indian Rural and Urban Youth Population -2001 (13 -35 years) 4
Table 4 Population of India by Religion -2001 20

List of Acronyms
AIADMK All India Anna Dravida Munettre Kazhagam

AIDS Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

BLD Base Line Data

DBAI Don Bosco Anbu Illam

DMK Dravida Munettre Kazhagam

DMDK Deisiya Murpokku Diravida Kazhagam

HIV Human immunodeficiency virus

NGO Non Governmental Organisation

NHRC National Human Rights Commission

OBC Other Backward Castes

PMK Pattali Makkal Katchi

SC Scheduled Castes

SHRC State Human Rights Commission

ST Scheduled Tribes

VCK Viduthalai Ciruthaikal Katchi

Marginalization of the urban poor who live in the slums of the heart of the cities is an undeniable reality of urbanization. Young people are likely to be most affected. Marginalization is seen here as that which denies citizenship rights of the urban poor youth, affecting their life, well being and development. In Indian context the research reveals that besides the deprivations due to poverty, caste discrimination, adult and male dominations have further aggravated the marginalization of the urban poor youth. The impact of marginalization is observed in the education, employment, socialization and recreation, participation in the civil society, political participation, marriage and family life. Comparatively the young women are more affected by marginalization than young men. Youth agency, motivated by a need for self respect is recognized in the different strategies of responses of the urban poor youth against the forces of marginalization. It is observed that the urban poor youth are resilient in responding to marginalization, of which some are direct and open and others indirect and informal. While the roles played by the NGO and other political and civil society organizations, as facilitators to enable the urban poor youth in achieving citizenship rights are recognized, the role of the state seem to be absent.

Relevance to Development Studies

As urbanization has over taken, the world is faced with newer challenges of urban poverty. Growing concerns of urban poverty have resulted in researches and studies related to the issues social exclusion of the urban poor, especially the youth. World is anxiously concerned with the growing large size of youth population in the developing countries. Researches try to understand and explain the phenomena and seek ways and means to involve the youth constructively in the development programmes. Only by understanding the urban poor youth, world community can respond appropriately to their needs and involve them in the development programme.

Key Words

Social exclusion, Marginalization, Citizenship rights, Urban poor youth, Agency.


I acknowledge with gratitude the help and guidance all those who helped me in the process writing this paper. First of all I thank to my supervisors Dr.Auma Okwany and Dr.Arjan de Haan. I am grateful to Dr.Linda Herera, CYS Convenor for her valuable comments. I thank Andrea Dykshoorn my classmate, for her suggestions.

I place on record and thank Rev.Fr.Herman Spronck, the Delegate of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Netherlands, who sponsored my education. I thank Don Bosco Rijswijk Community members Rev.Fr.Biju Oledath, Rev.Bro.Henny Koot, Sarah, Ceci, Camilo, Lukas and Lena whose presence and interaction enabled my study and reflection.

I extend my gratitude to community of Don Bosco Anbu Illam, Salem for their help and support in collection of data. I remember specially Rev.Fr.Xavier, the Director and Fr.Peter, Administrator, Mr. Xavier, the co-ordinator and the staffs Rachel, Shymala, Jacquline, Thamarai, and Vanitha who were helpful in meeting the youth. I also extend my gratitude to the youth of Ponnammapettai, Chinnammapalayam and Annathanapatti who participated in the focus group discussions and helped me in the process of the study.

I acknowledge with gratitude the help and guidance of Rev.Fr.Theophillus, Rev.Fr.Benjamin, and Dr. Adaikalaraja and Fr.Casimir Raj. I place on record the constant support and guidance of my sister Dr. Elizabeth Sebastian.

Chapter -1


The whole world is in rapid urbanization. The year 2007 marks the dawn of urban millennium, in which the world urban population overtook the rural population. The number of urban dwellers will keep rising and reach 5 billion by 2030. Till the twentieth century majority of the world’s urban population lived in Europe and in North America. From 2020 it would be in the developing countries and by end of this century it would be in Asia and Africa (UN-Habitat 2006: 6). We also notice the change in the trend in India. The trend of the population of Tamil Nadu sees the trend change which is presented in the Table 1.

Table 1: Population projection in Tamil Nadu






32 063 000

33 072 000

65 135 000


32 988 000

32 641 000

65 629 000


33 918 000

32 188 000

66 106 000


34 850 000

31 716 000

66 566 000


35 780 000

31 232 000

67 012 000

Source: Department of Economics and Statistics, Chennai-6
The cause of urbanization is attributed to several reasons such as migration spurred poverty, insufficient land and decline in agricultural products, rapid population growth, natural disasters and conflicts, AIDS pandemic, etc. Moreover employment prospects, illusion of better basic services and quality of life attract the poor in to the urban areas which has resulted in the innumerable number of slums in the developing countries. Urbanization has come synonymous with slum growth (UN-Habitat 2006: 12).

India has the highest concentration of slum dwellers in South Asia. 63 percent of the slum dwellers of Southern Asia, numbering about 170 million people are living in India (UN-Habitat 2006: 24). The urban poor are often marginalized and excluded due to lack of basic necessities of life. The lives of children and the youth of the urban poor are adversely affected too. Poverty plays a very significant role in the marginalization of urban poor youth.

The marginalization of the urban poor youth lead to a negative construction of urban poor youth as uneducated, unskilled, anti-socials engaged in violence, prone to sexual transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, and habitual users of substances, etc. (Riele 2006: 129-131). Conflict and violence are attributed to the urban poor youth(Sherrod 2006: 689). Poverty as a prime source of deprivations affects the life of the urban poor youth. However, in Indian context poverty is enjoined by caste discriminations and adult and male dominations.

In this research the term ‘marginalization’ or ‘social exclusion’ are inter changeable use to refer to deprivations, discriminations and dominations that affect the life, growth and development of the urban poor youth. They are termed as ‘marginalized’ or ‘socially excluded’ because they express that they lack citizenship rights to enjoy normal rights and privileges offered by the state to its citizens. This research is explores the experiences of marginalization of the urban poor youth and their responses to it.

The research is conducted in the City of Salem, Tamil Nadu in India. Salem is the fifth largest city in Tamil Nadu. The urban population of Salem is 13, 90, 000, which makes it the second largest city of Tamil Nadu in terms of population density. Salem is known for its production and exports of mangoes and stainless steel, textiles, yarn, granites, readymade garments, coir products is the largest producer of silver anklets in India(NIC 2009c). As a social worker in Salem for seven years, I have noticed the urban poor youth, as migrant young workers, lacking education and skills, work as daily labourers in the above units owned and managed by the rich and the high caste.

The urban poor youth in this research refer to those youth living in the slums, between the ages of 18 to 25 years. This introductory chapter initiates the subject of research and arrives at the research question. The chapter ends presenting the research methodology. The second chapter introduces the theoretical discussion linking urban poor youth and social exclusion. It discusses how the urban poor youth stands marginalized in the face of poverty perpetuated by caste discriminations and adult and male dominations. It also discusses briefly on the resilience of youth as agency. The third chapter analyses the experiences of marginalization of the urban poor youth and their strategies of responses to the same. It briefly recognizes the facilitations offered by the NGO, civil and political organizations. Finally the fourth chapter presents the conclusions.

1 .1 Justification and Relevance

India with its population of 1.15 billion has a large section of young people to its credit. The Table -2 presents Indian youth population as forming 41 percent of the Indian population; where as in the state of Tamil Nadu the youth form almost 43 percent of the Tamil Nadu population.

Table -2: Youth Population – India and Tamil Nadu - 2001 (13-35 Years)

Total Population











Source: Census of India - 2001- C-Series Tables
The distribution of youth in the rural and urban India can be seen from the Table -3 as per the 2001 census. As mentioned in the introduction the urban population has over taken the rural population in 2007, which is likely to be applicable for the youth population. Though there are no available statistics, the concentration of urban youth population is likely to be higher now than before.
Table – 3: Indian Rural and Urban Youth Population -2001 (13-35 Years)












Source: Census of India – 2001 – C – Series Table
The huge size of youth population is a concern for the world as it has both positive and negative impacts on the development. Societies with a large youth population are thought to be prone to conflict and violence(Sherrod 2006: 689). But a high proportion of young people can also be an opportunity for development. Researches and practitioners seek ways to involve the youth positively in the development process (WYR 2005: 72).

My engagement with the urban poor youth dates back to the year 1998, when I joined Don Bosco Anbu Illam (hereafter referred as DBAI) a NGO at Chennai, that focused on street and working children and youth who live in the slums of Chennai, Salem and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, India. In my tenure of interaction with the urban poor youth I realized that they experience deprivations and discriminations leading to marginalization and social exclusion, right in the heart of the city. The slum youth often used to describe their experience as loss of their ‘citizenship rights’ and live ‘second class citizens’ and ‘aliens’ in their own country.

At the same time, I also realized that the general public associate the urban poor youth as elements that disturb the society, associated with violence, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, etc. and were regarded as threat to the society. The youth are often perceived negatively as problems or victims but they should also be viewed as active agents(Ansell 2008: 247). They are both constructive as well as destructive forces (Boeck 2005: 3). We can realize the strange situations of the urban poor youth who while they face problems themselves are at the same time are seen as problem to the society. This is the condition of the marginalized urban poor youth.

Youth development and Youth in development are important subjects in the development field. Young People begin to participate in the social and political life during their youth. It is then that they decide to acquire different skills to work and to develop relationships for their life. They try and live different roles in the society which may be termed social or broadly political aspects of citizenship. Exercising citizenship is an important social movement and political life. To be a citizen is to be a member of a political community and enjoy the protections and privileges and to fulfil the obligations as a member of the community(The World Bank 2006: 160). But the experiences of marginalization affect their active participation in the society to enjoy the rights and duties of a citizen.

This research is an attempt to spell out their experiences of marginalization and how they have responded trying to acquire citizenship rights. This is also an attempt to note the contribution of NGOs, political and civil society organizations to the development of urban poor youth.

1.2 Research Objectives

The objective of the research is to explore the experiences of marginalization that affect the life, well being, growth and development of the urban poor youth. Second objective is to study their strategies of responses of to marginalization. Finally, it is also intended to identify the roles played by the political and civil society organizations such as NGOs and others, in enabling the urban poor youth to respond to marginalisation.

1.3 Research Questions

In order to achieve the objectives of the research the following leading question was framed and used: How do the urban poor youth (aged 18 to 25 years) of salem, from the slums of Ponnammapettai, Chinnammapalayam and Annathanapatti experience, cope and respond to Marginalization?

To realize the objective of the main question, it was further split into the following three specific sub-questions:

  1. How do the urban poor youth of salem experience marginalization? How does it affect their life, well being and development?

  2. How do the urban poor youth respond to marginalization? What are their strategies of responses?

  3. How do the NGO and other Organizations enable the urban poor youth in responding to marginalisation?

1.4 Research Methodology

To investigate the reality of marginalization of the urban poor youth, and answer the research questions, the research study was carried out in the city of Salem, Tamil Nadu, India. Being a qualitative research the concerned techniques were used. The essence of qualitative research is naturalistic which studies people in natural settings and sampling has to take in to account not only individual’s characteristics but also the situational influences(Marshall 1996: 524). The study needed both Primary and Secondary Data. Primary data was collected through focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews.

The participants of the focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews were chosen by purposeful sampling method. Purposeful sample or judgement sample is a method by which the researcher chooses the most productive sample to answer the research question(Marshall 1996: 523). After due discussion with DBAI and considering the requirement of the data, the researcher chose the respective slums and the participants of the focus group discussions and the interviewees.
1.4.1 Focus Group Discussion

Focus group discussion enables the researcher to collect relevant information in depth from the participants of a small group on a specific topic and enable the participants to express their experiences and views as a group. In the focus group discussion the shared experience of the participants can be brought to light. It offers a platform to collect the general feeling of the group and sort out the differences and consensus at the same time. The interaction among the participants will enlighten the different dimensions of the issue discussed (Cronin 2002: 165). The members of the focus group discussions were able to express and discuss their experiences and reflections. The individual and group experiences were brought to light in the focus group discussions.

The participants of in the focus group discussions were selected from three slums namely, Ponnammapettai, Chinnammapalayam and Annathanapatti which were also the operational areas of DBAI. The participants were between 18 and 25 years; because it was decided not to include school going young people since their experiences would be limited. It was also decided not to include married youth; because married young men and women are no more considered as youth according to the local understanding of the people and accepted as a practice by DBAI. Married young men are considered to be adults. The upper age limit of the participants was fixed as 25 years, because by then most of them are married.

There were six focus group discussions held of which three were with boys and three were with girls. In each group there were eight participants. The reason for separate groups for boys and girls is because of the local cultural restriction on free socialization and mixture of boys and girls. It explains the reasons for separate schools for boys and girls all over the state. DBAI staff who helped in contacting the participants, expressed that focus group discussions are to be held separately for boys and girls for the following reasons: Firstly, the girls generally are not at ease and spontaneous in the presence of boys and may be silenced by the domination of boys. Secondly, being a male dominated society, the experiences of girls may be different from that of boys. And finally gender issues can be addressed in depth. And so to enable the participation of all and obtain quality data, boys and girls had focus group discussions separately.

The focus group discussions lasted for one hour which was recorded in a voice recorder with the permission of the participants. It was later transcribed for further analysis. The subject of focus group discussions were related to their experiences of education, employment, income, rest, recreation, freedom of choice in marriage, religious and cultural expressions, associations and participation in the civil society and politics, interaction with the community, individual and group initiatives and the support received from NGOs or other organizations.
1.4.2 Semi-structured Interviews

Semi-structured interviews with the field staffs of DBAI who were working in those slums from where the participants of the focus groups discussions came from was helpful in identifying the role of the NGO. The selected participants are interviewed with some questions which are predetermined, but the questions can be adapted according to the need and direction of the discussion of the topic, in different respondents at different stages (Woodhouse 2002: 169). Accordingly the interviews had few predetermined questions; but during interview more questions were added to counter check the information collected from the participants of focus group discussions.

There were six semi-structured interviews conducted; of which four participants were field staffs of DBAI and two from the executive board of DBAI called the ‘core group’. Interview was chosen to provide a better opportunity to meet people of different ranking and responsibilities in the organization who were in direct contact with the youth of the slums. Each interview lasted for about one hour which too was audio recorded with permission and later transcribed. The subjects discussed in the interview were related to specific youth programmes, the involvement of the youth in planning and execution of youth programmes, youth participation in community and politics, the special attention to young women and their participation, the relevance and impact of NGO programmes, participation of other local actors in the process, resistance encountered and the response and reaction of the community.

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