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New roads and new flyovers = brand new slums

February 12, 2007

Our government is busy building infrastructure. Putting up brand new flyovers. Widening roads. Concretising them. But this does not always help ease congestion because the extra space is being eaten up. Flyovers specially make a cosy home for migrants to the city.

Nice and spacious isn’t it. Guess whole communities can live here. Wonder where they get the wood to burn? Do they chop down trees that line the road? And in our middle class colony we are scared to even cut a branch even if it touches the overhead wires because we are diligent in following laws. Laws which do not allow cutting of trees.


The migrants get lots of space to dry their clothes too:

Ofcourse if there are no flyovers, people aren’t too worried. They can find a lot of space on a brand new road. Not just space, a well paved sidewalk too. Overhanging trees to cut whenever they need firewood. What more can anyone want?

Know where this is? Right in front of a nice fancy mall at Mulund.

When they say we live in an unequal society, people don’t realise that the most unequal are the middle classes. They pay their taxes and are terrified of breaking the law. They don’t sell their votes so the politicians don’t bother about them. And as for the upper classes…well, they are above the law. They grab land from public development projects, make money from deals with companies, take commissions…well, the list goes on. There isn’t too much difference between the corrupt poor and the corrupt rich. If I have to choose between them I prefer the poor. A line in that movie Traffic Signal said it so well. The guy who is in charge of the beggar mafia tells a politician who comes to take his cut: You are a different kind of beggar, but you are a beggar too. I suppose one can also add the epithet thief. At least the poor are just here to eke out a living. They are uneducated and live hand to mouth in appalling conditions and they pay for the roads they occupy. Can we really expect them to have a highly developed sense of social responsibility? Can we expect a man who cannot afford fuel not to cut down trees which are public property? But we can definitely expect politicians to have social responsibility and integrity.

Yeah, keep expecting. Unless the middle classes come out in large numbers to vote there aren’t going to be too many changes in a hurry.

(All photos copyrighted)

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Slum Rehab project in jeopardy
Mumbai envisions itself a slum free city by 2015
Street children are deprived of an education

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2007 11:40 pm

    The middle class contributes in their own way.
    They will cheat the country of tax revenue.

    They are not bothered that
    the government treasuries are running dry
    as long as every rupee they earn is safely hidden at home.

    If every citizen paid their due taxes,
    India would be a totally different country.

    I was invited to see a friend’s recently built house in Kolkata.

    He complained that the State Health Service
    had completely collapsed and
    went on moaning that to get decent medical treatment
    one had to pay through their nose.

    He wished for a UK style NHS, where getting proper medical treatment is almost a birth right and above all free.

    He sincerely believes that it is
    because Britain is rich and India is poor.
    I was not sure whether it was a sincere belief
    or an excuse.

    I could not tell him the unpleasant truths.
    After all I was a guest in his house;
    a house wrapped in marble, matt emulsions and pebble-dashings
    on all the four new floors of it.

    He claims to be a law abiding public servant,
    who pays all his taxes.
    I still wonder.
    Why he resents having to pay for good medical treatment?

  2. February 13, 2007 8:22 am

    Actually the middle class (which I assume to be the salaried class) pays all their taxes because it is cut at source. Ofcourse if you are talking of corruption, no one is immune from it. Salaried people specially in government services take cuts, that is how slum dwellers are allowed to set up house anywhere they want.

  3. February 13, 2007 3:43 pm

    By ‘middle class’ I understand a group of people
    who have some degree of economic independence,
    but not much of social influence or power.

    They can be merchants and professionals, bureaucrats,
    farmers and skilled workers
    and not just restricted to the salaried class.
    And it is an extremely large group.

    Even then not everyone,
    whose tax are deducted at source,
    pays all their dues.

    The doctor in health service –
    will almost always have a private practice.
    Every rupee earned through from that is taxable.

    The teachers (incl university) –
    has a larger income through private ‘tuitions’,
    again every rupee is taxable.

    The list goes on.
    Dishonesty gives rise to corruption.
    it is unidirectional.
    and universal.

    Reluctance to follow the legislation and regulations comes first
    bribery is the necessary tool only.
    No bureaucrats would be able to exhort ‘cuts’
    if everyone honestly paid their dues.
    No bureaucrat should be expected to demand bribes
    to do an honest days work
    for which he/she is being paid.

    The amount of money that is channeled of
    into the parallel ‘black economy’
    may buy status and comfort for only those who indulge in it.

    Had that amount of money stayed in the ‘white economy’
    properly taxed, properly utilised
    it would help everyone.
    The society first and then individuals.
    As well as the slum dwellers whose plight you have highlighted.

    If it is instant wealth we are all after,
    someone has to lose out.

    The streets and slums will remain as their permanent residence.
    And everyone will have to continue to ‘pay through their nose’
    for that elusive proper health care.

  4. February 13, 2007 11:10 pm

    Nita, I cannot hold these poor migrants responsible for cutting the trees or making the pavements as their home. It is the “other” side of India. Government should take care of those poor ones or every city in our country will be full of slums. These people also have a right to live with dignity.

  5. February 15, 2007 12:15 pm

    Have you ever thought where these migrants come from? Why do they come? Why do they leave their calm and quiet villages and migrate to these kind of congested costly places, risking their lifes and health? No, we never bother to think all these, but we are there right in front to stamp them as the scum and wretched, who defaces the upmarketish face of the city. We should understand they are the outcome of an unhealthy development our country has gone through. We are pushing more and more of them to be there under the fly-overs. This trickle down economics which was propounded as the remedy for all the problems of India has not worked for India in the last decade. There is absolutely no concern about agricultre or development of the hinterlands of India. This is a forced migration. Probably a read of Sainath will do good. He can give a better idea about the the discontent and disparity across the villages in India.
    They cutting trees; for sure they will not be able to afford a LPG connection which comes at around 300, neither do they have the “infrastructre” to hold an LPG stove.

  6. February 15, 2007 1:40 pm

    Dear Clash, I agree with you entirely. I fully sympathise with the plight of these people. However I do not think living under flyovers is the solution how much ever people who live in elite areas (like Shabana Azmi) espouse it. Its people like us who live near the slums (yes there is a huge slum near my house) who know the problems of these people. By the way I teach slum children for free…I wonder what do you do? I have done public service in an orphanage too for more than two years…what have you done?? Its easy for people who are far removed from reality to talk as you do. I have also adopted a poor child and am paying for her education. What have you done? Your theoritical talk makes no impression on me. Reading books is of no use unless you get down to hard reality.
    In any case I am not blaming the poor…do read my post carefully instead of jumping to conclusions. This is what I have written:
    “They are uneducated and live hand to mouth in appalling conditions and they pay for the roads they occupy. Can we really expect them to have a highly developed sense of social responsibility? Can we expect a man who cannot afford fuel not to cut down trees which are public property? But we can definitely expect politicians to have social responsibility and integrity.”
    Its obvious that you have not read my post properly. Please do so before submitting comments. I understand the poor far more than you do. I am blaming the government. Just today there was a report about how houses and public money meant for pavement dwellers is being misused. These people need rehabilitation, they need decent houses to stay in and the government is eating the money.

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