Mumbai's Slum King is Person of the Year



He started off with his trademark declaration, “I am a slum dweller,” and for the next 20 minutes went on to narrate his story, of how he landed in Mumbai as a teenager and went on to emerge as an activist who fought for the rights of the urban poor transcending national borders.

The founder of National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF), and president of Slum Dwellers International (SDI), Jockin Arputham, 68, was speaking at a function held at VIT University, Vellore, Wednesday after receiving The Weekend Leader – VIT Person of the Year (2015) Award.

Jockin Arputham with The Weekend Leader - VIT Person of the Year Award (Photos: H K Rajashekar)

Seeking to motivate the students to think about improving the lot of the poor living in the country, he recalled his first activism in Mumbai when he led 3,000 children from a slum and dumped the garbage each of them was carrying at the Municipal office.

When the police came looking for him, he told the cops that since the Municipality had failed to collect the garbage from their colony, they resorted to this action. From that day on, the Municipality started to collect the garbage from their settlement and Jockin emerged as a leader.

“Today I work in 37 countries. I am not (just) a slum dweller, but I am a flying slum dweller. Morning I am in Mumbai, next morning in Nairobi, and (for) dinner (I am) in America,” he said.

The Flying Slum Dweller talking about his experiences working among the poor in 37 countries

Dr. Prateep Philip, ADGP, Economic Offences Wing (EOW), Tamil Nadu, who pioneered the Friends of Police movement in the state during the 1990s presented the Person of the Year award to Jockin and urged the youth to excel in their chosen fields.

“To achieve excellence one does not need academic qualifications as the awardee has proved. You just need passion for excellence,” Prateep said.

Prateep spoke about Exenomics, a concept he had developed for developing one’s skills. “The principle of exenomics is yearning, learning, and earning,” he said and emphasised that one has to give priority to developing one’s talents more than the desire for amassing wealth.

Dr. Prateep Philip presenting the Person of the Year Award to Arputham. Also seen in the photo are Dr. G Viswananthan, Chancellor VIT (third from left), G V Selvam, Vice President, VIT University (extreme right) and Dr. Anand A Samuel, Vice Chancellor, VIT University (extreme left)

“Yearning for excellence is passion – passion for developing one’s abilities,” Prateep said, and shared the concept of ‘Be at it and Beat it’ for success. “Be at it – developing your skills – and beat it (the negative feelings that enter your mind).”

In his address, VIT Chancellor Dr. G Viswanathan appreciated The Weekend Leader’s positive journalism and expressed the wish that the entire media would adopt a more positive attitude.

Lamenting that the media was not giving importance to issues like economic development and poverty alleviation, he said that the fruits of growth has not reached all.

Dr. G Viswanathan spoke about the need for eradicating poverty and building houses for the poor in India

“There is so much inequality in the country and in the world. One study has found that 85 rich people of the world own 50 per cent of the world’s wealth. In our country also inequality is increasing.

“We have to do something about it. I think education can be a force which can stop this increasing inequality – especially higher education for all,” Viswanathan said.

Citing an estimate that eight crore people need houses in the country, he said that he was proud that a Tamilian and an Indian, Arputham, was going around the world constructing houses for the poor.

Dr G Viswanathan presents a memento to the Chief Guest Dr. Prateep Philip. Also seen in the photo are Dr. D Ashok, Dean, VIT Business School (extreme left), P C Vinoj Kumar, Editor, The Weekend Leader (second from left) and Sam Rajappa, Consulting Editor, The Weekend Leader (extreme right)

While expressing the hope that more houses would be built for the poor in India, he said houses should however not come up at the cost of agriculture land.

“Every year we are losing 1 lakh hectares of agriculture land because of urban growth. We should evolve a policy to prevent further shrinking of our agriculture land. We need more agricultural produce for our growing population,” he said.

Presentation of the cash award of Rs. 25,000

Viswanathan also released the second issue of The Lead Star, an annual print magazine from The Lead Star group, publishers of The Weekend Leader

Earlier, veteran journalist and Consulting Editor of The Weekend Leader, Sam Rajappa introduced the awardee to the audience and later presented the gift cheque of Rs. 25,000 to him.

P C Vinoj Kumar, Editor, The Weekend Leader, Dr. Anand A Samuel, Vice Chancellor, VIT University, Dr. D Ashok, Dean, VIT Business School, also spoke at the function. G V Selvam, Vice President, VIT University, was in the dais. - TWL Bureau  


VIT Chancellor Dr. G Viswanathan released the second issue of The Lead Star Magazine and Dr. Prateep, ADGP, Economic Offences Wing, Tamil Nadu, accepted the first copy


VIT Vice President G V Selvam and The Weekend Leader's Consulting Editor Sam Rajappa applauding the proceedings 


Women activists belonging to Jockin's NSDF felicitating their founder post-award function  


Jockin signing copies of The Lead Star magazines for students 

Milky Mist Cheese