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Plans to rid Mumbai of slums by 2015

February 19, 2007

A shot of Dharavi, Mumbai’s biggest slum, a shot I took as we landed in Mumbai.

But that might become something like this:

No, not a pipe dream. The Maharashtra government has planned to make this eyesore a piece of history. Its a Rs 5,600-crore Dharavi Development Project and will give a chance to the residents of the slum to live with dignity. Free houses are to be provided to slum-dwellers and in return the builder gets to develop the rest of the land. Even one tower will free up lots of space and other property can be developed there. The Dharavi project is just one of many. In fact, all the slum dwellers in Mumbai, who make up more than 50% of the population, are to be rehabilitated. Sounds too good to be true?

Believe it!

In fact, the state of Maharashtra is the only state in India to plan such a large-scale slum rehabilitation programme, a programme that will cover more than 2000 slums in the city. Considering the proliferation of slums here they have to I guess.
The plan itself is not new however. The truth is that this grandiose project has not seen too much progress in recent years. Just about 1.20 lakh new tenements have been built so far.

The reasons for the slow going have been that real estate developers have been wary of getting involved in Slum Rehabilitation Projects as “most developers prefer to have a clear title to a land but slum rehabilitation projects mean clearing the land of all encumbrances, itself a long and tedious process.” But now the developers are seeing this as well worth their effort. “A combination of factors, including changes in the policy, access to international venture capital and a paucity of land and skyrocketing realty prices have meant that Slum Rehabilitation projects today attract the biggest of developers.”
So much so that foreign companies like ETA- Ascon of Dubai, and Trikona, an investment fund based in New York are showing interest. A quote from the International Herald Tribune:

So profitable is resettlement that one local developer, Akruti Nirman, has built its entire business around slums, and it is expected to raise $100 million next year in a stock offering that has attracted overseas investors…the moves reflect a surge of enthusiasm for Indian real estate, which was closed to foreign capital until last year. Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring in from firms like Goldman Sachs to build new malls, apartments and offices, and many stock offerings are planned for next year.

Ofcourse all is not hunky dory. There are reports of alloted apartments being illegally re-sold with connivance of government officials and builders have also faced court cases like in the case of SD Corporation which is redeveloping the slums at MP Mill Compound in Tardeo. But the delay has actually benefited the developer! A news report mentions that real estate prices have climbed so dramatically in the last two years that the builder is now able to sell the apartments at a much higher price than envisaged earlier.

For example, a 3,810 sq feet apartment in Tardeo is reportedly going for Rs 14 crore ($3177485)! In fact office rentals in Worli, an area adjacent to Tardeo are the fifth most expensive in the whole world, higher than New York!
Is it any wonder then that developers are seeing these projects as a way of making their own dreams come true? And if it also makes the dream of the Maharashtra government to make Mumbai slum free by 2015 come true then why not!

(Both photographs are copyrighted to me. The second one is not a model or a sample of an actual slum development scheme but just a representation)

Related Reading:  Government officials taking bribes to allow slums
How people live in Dharavi

Corruption in slum rehab project in Mumbai
Reality check on slum development project
Foreign tourists take slum tours

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A boom in Indian real estate

26 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2007 9:12 am

    This is an amazing story, with obvious difficulties in ensuring legalities of transferring ownership, because it seems that at every stage of negotiations people involved seek profit -slum dwellers to sell their allottment at a profit, etc…. which creates a problem of speculation, which is, I am sure not the intent of the government.
    However, looking at the high rise example you showed, I can see how easily slum-dwellers will prefer to live in stand alone housing where their ability to come and go is not impeded. High-rise housing for the poor become slums in themselves, and life in them untenable. I personally would not want to live in a high-rise tenement myself, because I would prefer to have even an illusion of mobility and self-determination.

  2. February 19, 2007 9:59 am

    2015 is a safe target. They can always come back saying that they had all the intentions to do it, but then they lost power in the middle and so the project did not succeed. And who knows how many crores of this will get diverted to personal accounts. But the positive side is that people would get rehabilitated. ie if the slum dwellers themselves want to. I doubt the success exactly because of that.

  3. February 19, 2007 10:00 am

    Oh no, iam such a pessimist !

  4. February 19, 2007 12:06 pm


    The neoliberal tsunami broke with a dreadful ferocity on African cities, and the African slum world in particular. Reform—the privatization of public utilities creating massive corporate profits and a decline in service provision, the slashing of urban services, the immiseration of many sectors of the public workforce, the collapse of manufactures and real wages, and often the disappearance of the middle class—was remorselessly anti-urban in its effects, as Mike Davis documents in Planet of Slums (Verso, 2005). As a consequence, African cities confronted the horrifying realities of an economic contraction of 2–5 percent per year combined with sustained population growth of up to 10 percent per annum (Zimbabwe’s urban labor market grew by 300,000 per year in the 1990s while urban employment grew by just 3 percent of that figure). In Dar es Salaam public service expenditures per capita fell by 10 percent a year in the 1980s; in Khartoum adjustment created one million “new poor”; and urban poverty in Nigeria almost tripled between 1980 and the mid 1990s. No wonder that 85 percent of urban growth in Nairobi, Kinshasha, and Nouakchott in the 1980s and 1990s was accommodated in the slums barracks of sprawling and ungovernable cities. Everyone’s worst urban nightmare—Lagos—grew from 300,000 to 13 million in over fifty years and is expected to become part of a vast Gulf of Guinea slum of 60 million poor along a littoral corridor 600 kilometers stretching from Benin City to Accra by 2020. Black Africa will contain 332 million slum dwellers by 2015, a figure expected to double every fifteen years. The pillaging and privatization of the state—whatever its African “pathologies”—and the African commons is the most extraordinary spectacle of accumulation by dispossession, all made in the name of foreign assistance. The involution of the African city, notes Davis, has as its corollary not an insurgent lumpenproletariat but rather a vast political universe of Islamism and Pentecostalism. It is this occult world of invisible powers—whether populist Islam in Kano or witchcraft in Soweto—that represents the most compelling ideological legacy of neoliberal utopianism in Africa. – Monthly Review

    We will need more and more projects like this and at a point, we will think, there is no use of such a rehabilitation becuase the number of people who gets added to these kind of “eyesores” are burgeoning all over the world. The above stated article is about Africa and we might dismiss it saying “its africa”. But Africa is a rich in many aspects but imperial looting and rampant Neo-liberal policies have pushed them in to chaos. It can happen with us too. I am sure, half of the population in Dharavi will be displaced and homeless after this project.

    Lets not get disillusioned, its not charity that these construction giants are there for, they do business!

  5. February 20, 2007 8:46 am

    Sabarish, I too feel pessimistic at times. But then we have to have hope. Actually my worry is not so much that this project won’t happen, but that it will happen, but won’t work. The news redevelopment schemes could well turn into high rise slums as Suburban Life has pointed out, or more slums will come up on the streets. A never ending saga. We really need to tackle the root of the problem, which is poverty.

  6. Conman permalink
    February 22, 2007 2:03 pm

    Suburban life – Isn’t the Govt also guilty of wanting to make money in the slum rehab schemes by being hand-in-glove with the builders ? isn’t that also their intent ? if yes, then why do you single out only the slum-dwellers for making money ?. And if you think that high-rise tenements are not the solution and slums are also not the solution, then what is ? I mean where would a slum-dweller get the “illusion of self-determination and mobility” ?

    Nita – I object on your use of the word “eyesore”. It reeks of elitism.

    Further, on your comment 5 – you are saying that you worry that the slum rehab project will be a failure. Why ?

    Next you say that the “news (sic) redevelopment scheme could turn into high rise slums.” How ?

    So, are you saying – like Suburban Life above – that whether on plain ground or in high-rises, slums will remain slums ? If yes, why and how ? If yes, then is there a way out ? If yes, then why are you sounding so happy at the prospect of Slum Rehab Schemes.

    Poverty being the root of all problems is as true for Dharavi as it is for UP, Bihar, Rio, Lagos, ghettos of New York, Patna, etc. etc. Since you’ve chosen to write specifically on Dharavi, please refrain from platitudes like poverty being at the root. You do your readers a grave dis-service. Please credit your readers with a little more intelligence. Thank you.

  7. February 22, 2007 5:17 pm

    Conman, I see your viewpoint. I do opologise if the word ‘eyesore’ was offensive. It was not meant to sound that way. But if I have to honest with myself I will have to admit that I think that slums are ugly. Call it a wrong political statement. But in no way do I mean to demean slum dwellers.
    About any slum development turning out to become a high rise slums – I simply considered the possibility. The phenomena can happen when there is overcrowding. It is not a desirable situation, and again – it need not happen. One is not sure what sort of space is being given. whether there will be proper central areas, large enough corridors etc.
    Yes, I am happy about the slum rehab scheme. I think one has to think of such solutions. I pray that everything goes well and the slum dwellers get decent homes.
    About my worry about the scheme not suceeding, it is a natural worry I think. Many schemes get stuck and do not turn out to be the way they are supposed to.
    As for poverty being the root case, I do not think I said anythign wrong. I am not claiming to be offering high funda analysis here. I am not claiming to be any sort of intellectual. I am indeed sorry if you find my analysis insulting to your intelligence.

  8. February 22, 2007 9:58 pm

    Yes- conman – for the sake of brevity I left out any discussion in my comment to Nita’s article here, of the complicity of government and developers as being a severe problem. I see a problem where people are ghettoized without recourse to form their own “municipal” power structure, of not being involved with the ways of means of how, as a group, they would like to see life conditions for themselves to be. It is not enough to design another form of “chicken coop”, which is what the high-rise developments tend to be, without giving the people there a voice and choice in determining the specifics of their neighbourhood.
    A necessary solution to problems like this is only resolvable, in my opinion, by slum-dwellers themselves pushing for concensus on what their needs are, and implementing the necessary changes, with government support, for themselves.

  9. Soham Agarwal permalink
    March 2, 2007 11:18 am

    Mumbai’s problems lie in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It has already happened to Kolkata in the past few decades where every footpath and vacant land was swamped by poor migrants fleeing the ravages of Indian style, elite driven, socialism in those two states. Better train connections to Mumbai from these two regions has now tilted the migration towards Mumbai. The poor migrants are not too blame because their votes in their own states don’t make any change. So they are doing the next best thing – voting with their feet and pouring into Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai in millions – the cities where capitalism thrives and people can at least hope to eat twice a day unlike the villages where fake socialism is in sway. Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore are next in the swamp list as connections to Bihar and UP improve. Add to these the illegal migrants from some neighbouring countries about which we are in denial mode for the sake of votebank politics. So things will improve only when capitalism gets rid of desi socialism and the tentacles of soicialist exploitation in the caste driven, strife torn badlands of Bihar and UP.

    Nowadays it is fashionable by elite socialists, to complain about neoliberalism and blame everything on neoliberals. It’s like the leftists blaming everything on imperialist forces andneocons and the right wingers blaming everything on pseudo seculars. What a bunch of jokers all these people are.

    It is this set of elite socialists who are blocking up industrialization of India and planned urbamization. These people are opposing the planned redevelopment of Dharavi, for they fear that if the people get a decent life, who will these socialists weep for?

    Here’s hoping that the Dharavi project succeeds despite vested interests of socialist activists and elitist NGOs to keep people poor and hungry. The people of Dharavi deserve a better deal and life. They are crying for help to be saved from desi socialism. They want to live the good life too. But the socialist elite is not ready to give them a chance because some socialist “experts”, sitting in some high chair in some government funded university, have decided that it is “anti-people”.

    There is little hope that life in Dharavi will improve as long as desi style socialism with its slogan mongering and do nothing chokes India to near death.

  10. March 2, 2007 4:34 pm

    Thank you Mr. Agarwal for comment. You have given me some valuable insight.

  11. July 21, 2007 6:15 am

    Have you seen the Palm Jabal Ali islands being created off the coast of Dubai? There a great project that can lend something to this project you speak of. . . there will need to be a healthy industry and way of dealing with the the people stuff. The islands could bring tourism, water restoration, fish estuarial fish production to help support such an amitious project. What do you think? After all, all that “stuff” has to go somewhere. Also, such a project creates more jobs, long term jobs. Add an international hiway and whala. No pun intended.

  12. July 21, 2007 6:19 am

    Inspired leadership for the wellbeing of others prevails beyond the meloncholy moans of the roadside.

  13. December 15, 2007 4:41 pm

    I don’t think that it is possible to remove slums by 2015. Mumbai has 13 million population and 60% of people of Mumbai live in slums. Ruling classes that work for interests of corporate capitalists like Tata and Ambani cannot develop skyscrapers in slum areas in our cities. Government of India is showing false statistics on poverty. For example: Lakdawala commission estimated that Andhra Pradesh has 26% urban poverty and 11% rural poverty. If poverty is so less in Andhra Pradesh, why so many farmers of that region are committing suicides and migrating to gulf for work? Imperialist America has 11% poverty according to their state estimates. Should we believe that rural area of a province in a third world country has just 11% poverty? Promises made by our politicians are like “paradise in hand”.

  14. December 17, 2007 9:44 am

    @Proletarian Revolutionary:

    even if our govt’s stats are accurate, it has no meaning. our poverty line is so miserably low that the people who are above the so-called line are still miserably poor!
    However I do think it’s possible to remove slums. The land is there and projects are on the anvil. What I fear are the urban and concrete slums which which will come up instead! People also need education in basic hygiene.

  15. Gaurav Mittal permalink
    February 5, 2008 7:19 pm

    i am a B. Arch. student.
    I want to do my thesis on slum rehabilitation, i just hit my pc searching for any possible live site for that & read your blog. Can u please tell me about this in detail, i mean which department is going to handle this project & when is it going to start, what is its process ?
    my mail id is

  16. krenim permalink
    June 27, 2008 8:16 pm

    Hi there,
    Slum redevelopment in India is a joke because it is a third world country with a first world legal institutiins(evenAnything less and anyone of thos though madenningly slow) basically what you need to do is to set up a constitutional authority on slum rehabilitation much like your election commision whose decision would be final and binding with the affected having no recourse to judicial arbitration.
    The many many millions in India’s slums on prime real estate can throw a spanner in the works by approaching the courts.

  17. krenim permalink
    June 27, 2008 8:17 pm

    sorry I don’t think the previous comment came out well(damn keyboard) but I hope you get the jist of it.

  18. sandip permalink
    November 2, 2009 4:08 pm

    If the government follows the slum development projects then more and more people from bihar & u.p. will migrate to mumbai. first stop further migration of people & development of slums. the population of mumbai is increasing but what about facilities. scarcity of water, electricity, very poor infrastructure more & more. most of the people of slums are illetrate so can any body tell me how they survive. dont u think many of them might be involved in criminal activities. just type name of any big cities in the world on google . see what appears on screen. tall skyscrapers, ultra modern public transport systems, huge bridges & many more. now just type mumbai there. what u see ? slums, crowded poor public transport, flooded mumbai etc. it is very sorry to say that there is nothing in mumbai to say it as an international city……….

  19. prajwal devdutt bahindarkar permalink
    March 7, 2010 1:58 pm

    the biggest joke is that mumbai being converted into shanghai, where 90% of the population lives in the slums without any proper papers,and
    most of it is occupied on forest land . mangroves in dahisar, the extension of borivali national parks starting from dahisar to kashimira (which houses the worst of slums i.e two tier 2 marble ,granite flooring houses of adivasis ) yeoor hills in thane, ghodbunder road thane.Dharavi mahim,j.j hospital pavement(flyover)! And our ministers are sleeping over these areas and when the election nears we are offered sops that slums will be eradicated soon to make mumbai shanghai. aamchi mumbai zindabad.
    adv.prajwal d bhaindarkar

  20. Shubham permalink
    May 7, 2010 12:43 pm

    Government either destroy dharavi or shuld build them nicely.

  21. Mallika permalink
    May 20, 2010 2:03 pm

    Just want to bring to your notice that in kalina also there are is a place called Kolivery village its a big area but a slum like it would be great if that area is also developed by private or govt builders.

  22. Thomas permalink
    October 9, 2010 2:11 am

    This is the kind of nonsensical “development” that we should be ensuring is never imposed on self employed lower income group people who exist solely by their mental strength & the strength of their community.

    And we want to pack them into 20 story towers so that we can clear the “slums” and boast a little more to the west.

    What a pity !

  23. Hemant permalink
    February 1, 2011 4:44 pm

    We are staying in a joint family in slum area aprox 1200 sq. feet in Andheri. Now builder has given a proposal but he says that will be getting only 1 room because we have only one ration card & light bill. Kindly send your advise what can be done…

  24. dr.jaydev dash permalink
    February 15, 2011 3:45 am

    i t will be a great achivement for india also because the mumbai slum is the biggest slum in world ,so if it will sucessed in so near future than it will be like as sucess of a beautiful dream .

  25. mumbaiwala permalink
    September 4, 2015 6:17 am

    ITS 2015 and the slums are still in Mumbai. Way to fucking go…


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