Is There Any Hope For Dharavi?
Dharavi, a sprawling slum in Mumbai, is arguably the largest in the world. This slum has been a symbol of sharp income disparities for years. People in Dharavi live in a world of poverty and squalor, yet they smile with a contented look in their eyes.
Dharavi’s residents, however, have a strong sense of unity. They are successful in fighting for access to water, a hip hop and art school, and direct market access for artisans. A recently released blockbuster film, “Kaala,” helped to put the spotlight on the truth about Dharavi.
The Dharavi slum is home to upwards of 60,000 families. The majority of them are Hindus. But there are also Muslims and other religions represented here. Many of them migrated from regions across India, including North and South India. There are more than 15,000 small factories and shops in the slum.
The Dharavi slum has the highest literacy rate in the country, with 69% of its population able to read or write. Some of these people earn an honest living in the slum’s factories and micro-enterprises.
Residents of Dharavi have been pushing back against plans to relocate them into high rises, because it would deprive them of their livelihoods. They need their livelihoods to be supported during a transition.
The current redevelopment project has stalled for years. In 2008, Uddhav Thackeray promised to give every resident 400 square feet of housing. However, only 37% of the residents were eligible for new homes. At the time, developers were building apartment buildings of three or four stories.
After the redevelopment plan fell through, the state government started a separate redevelopment program for the area. It would have moved Dharavi residents into unattractive towers. For now, the government is still holding land ownership in the slum, and the redevelopment project is not progressing.
One of the reasons why the Dharavi redevelopment has not been moving forward is that the original residents have been unable to prove tenure. Even if they are granted a new home, they will not be able to move into it until the government proves they are legally entitled to live there.
The redevelopment of Dharavi has been an ongoing issue for almost two decades. As of June 2016, the government’s own experts’ committee labeled the project a sophisticated land grab. To improve its chances of success, the plan divides the slum into five sectors.
In order to redevelop the area, the State Government has extended indirect subsidies to the project. They have waived stamp duty on the first sale of saleable areas and on development rights agreements. Meanwhile, the state cabinet has approved a global tender for the whole project.
The new redevelopment plan has a vision of giving 350 square feet of carpet area houses to 67,000 residents. However, only a third of the Dharavi population will be able to move into the new apartments. Rather than a single housing cluster, the State Government wants to transform Dharavi into a business and business-related hub.