Redevelopment of Slumdog Millionaire’s slum has residents fearing they will be evicted

Residents commute in Mumbai's largest slum in the morning hours on November 2, 2022.  Despite its housing conditions, Dharavi is home to a thriving informal economy.  (Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images - photo credit)

Residents commute in Mumbai’s largest slum in the morning hours on November 2, 2022. Despite its housing conditions, Dharavi is home to a thriving informal economy. (Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images – photo credit)

Residents of Dharavi, India’s largest slum, are concerned about a new development project led by billionaire Gautam Adani – one that could result in the displacement of thousands of residents.

Dharavi, portrayed in the Oscar-winning 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire, is located in the heart of Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, and is home to approximately one million people. They may live in shacks and shacks crammed into the small piece of land smaller than Central Park, but their neighborhood is a self-sufficient neighborhood.

Children romp and play in Dharavi – and thousands of businesses set up over the years thrive under the tutelage of migrant workers. But right now, many of them are afraid that they could lose everything.

In November, Adani and his company Adani Realty won a tender to redevelop Dharavi. Over the years, the area evolved from a mangrove swamp to a fishing community and then a slum with poor infrastructure. The company’s $2.4 billion US project vaguely promises to relocate some residents and relocate businesses to the same site, but details are scarce.

Hussain Indorewala is an urban researcher and assistant professor at the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies. He predicts the rehabilitation project will move households to a smaller part of the country – about half the size of the current slum.

“[It] will likely be one of the densest urban settlements in the world,” said Indorewala Nothing is foreign Host Tamara Khandaker. “And the population of Dharavi is double that… which means a corresponding number of people are likely to be displaced.

“It’s going to be quite a disaster.”

Several generations of families live in one-bedroom apartments throughout Dharavi. Many of them do not have access to running water or clean toilets.

Sonu Shah lives in a room with his wife and children. He earns his daily wages by working with plaster. He’s one of the residents Nothing is foreign spoken, who say that they want better living conditions and support the reconstruction. But they are concerned about what that will look like in the hands of the Adani group, which is currently embroiled in its own controversy.

Only the residents living on the ground floor of the slum and those who can prove that they have lived in Dharavi since before 2000 are eligible for resettlement according to the tender agreement read by the city researcher. Everyone else living upstairs or not having the required papers will be forced to leave.

“If there is a need to demolish the houses in Dharavi, they can, but they should build the house on the exact same spot and give it to us,” Shah said. “We shouldn’t be tossed here and there. If they send us somewhere else, it will affect our livelihood, the education of the children, everything.”

Subhash Sharma

Subhash Sharma

At the same time, Shah worries about an exposed power cable above his house. It has a voltage of 11,000 volts – and it runs right above where children play.

“Explosions happen in these cables in the summer [and] we are woken up by the sound of explosions,” he said.

“We’re not sure at all.”

cost of living

After the partition of British India in 1947, impoverished workers and artisans from across the country came to Mumbai in search of jobs. A free and unregulated country at the time, Dharavi quickly became a bustling slum.

Housing activist Raju Korde grew up in Dharavi. His father immigrated to the city to work in a lens processing plant while his mother worked in the recycling industry.

Indranil Mukherjee/AFP via Getty Images

Indranil Mukherjee/AFP via Getty Images

“Many companies find it cheaper to work from here,” Korde said Nothing is foreign. “It’s cheaper because the laws of the Factory Act don’t apply. Electricity can be obtained from residential buildings – you do not need industrial electricity. And taxes are avoided because many companies operate without the necessary licenses.”

Dharavi is home to Native Americans of diverse religious and linguistic backgrounds. For many, the slum is a symbol of the country’s widespread wealth inequality. Ironically, it also has prime real estate value.

The rest of the city grew around the slum and became Mumbai’s global financial sector. Dharavi is now bordered by residential areas for middle and upper class households.

“Dharavi is certainly Asia’s most lucrative location for for-profit redevelopment,” said Indorewala. “That’s why it’s been attractive for a very long time.”

Problems with the project and the Adani group

In return for the redevelopment of Dharavi residents and businesses, the Adani Group is benefiting from using part of the land to build commercial properties and selling them at market prices. Irfan Ahmad Khan, who sells fruit on the streets of the slum, feels like a “farmhouse”.

“All these companies developed here from the ground up,” Khan said. “Now the rights of these residents are being trampled on and awarded to Adani.”

Subhash Sharma

Subhash Sharma

It also doesn’t help that the Adani group has been at the center of a massive controversy since January. US short selling firm Hindenburg Research accused the company of fraud and stock manipulation, which resulted in a loss of more than $110 billion in the company’s market value as investors walked out. Gautam Adani, who was then the third richest person in the world, lost more than half of his fortune.

Adani’s close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also been in the spotlight. It has been speculated that this relationship is the reason the Adani group won the Dharavi rehabilitation project, although the government denies this.

Urban researcher Indorewala has studied similar projects across Mumbai and does not expect major improvements from the new settlements in Dharavi. If they turn out like the other buildings, they could be high-density, multi-storey high-rise buildings with poor lighting and ventilation – documented as a cause of respiratory diseases among residents.

Vijay Soneji/Mint via Getty Images

Vijay Soneji/Mint via Getty Images

“The standards for working people and slum regeneration programs are much, much lower than those for the general population, which means they are inherently discriminatory planning systems,” he said.

The city can easily build very good quality social housing in Dharavi for the residents of Dharavi. But it doesn’t because it’s an ideological commitment to a particular form of development driven by the private sector, based on capturing exceptional land values ​​in the city and creating real estate surplus for landowners and developers.”


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