‘Madhu Basti’, meaning ‘Honey Slum’, is a small collection of shanties nestled beside the railway tracks in a Kolkata industrial area. The community was founded over forty years ago with most of the community originally come from the Indian states of Jharkhand and Bihar.
As the name suggests, the collection and selling of honey is the principal occupation of the slum’s residents. Skills carried from their home states by the slums first residents and passed from one generation to the next.
Once the honey is collected, it is taken to various areas by those who collected the honey and some of their wives, who often do so with their youngest child on their hip. They honey is sold for Rs. 100/per kg and fresh honey is not gathered until the current batch is sold. The general monthly income of the families is about Rs. 3000 (c.£30).
The ‘Madhu Basti’ is an extremely poor community, lacking in most amenities, such as access to any basic sanitation. In the community there is one hand pump used by some residents whilst the others collect water and shower from the water pumped from the local main water main located across the railway tracks in the industrial estate that lies opposite the community. The community does not have access to any toilets with defecation occurring in public along the railway tracks.
Save the Children, with the support of Aviva, runs 'mobile learning centres’ - buses, which visits various slum communities, like Madhu Basti. The buses bring education to children who are very difficult to reach. They are equipped with high quality learning material to motivate the children to enrol to mainstream schools or begin vocational skill training. They introduces early reading and writing skills and non-formal education and link children under 14 years old to centres for transitional education, with a view to being mainstreamed into formal schools. Each bus is associated with a school run by the local authority.