Mumbai, the most dynamic and cosmopolitan Indian city, is all geared up to become another Shanghai. But amidst all the glam and hype, there lurks a murky reality – Mumbai is dotted with slums across its length and breadth. To attract foreign investment, the government needs to present a perfect image of an efficient and clean city, which means a complete absence of slums. So what is the solution?
Though there has been tremendous progress in Mumbai across several fronts, infrastructure remains a crucial concern and Mumbai's slums seem to be growing with each passing day. Squatted by nearly one million people, Dharavi is said to be the largest slum in Asia! Some families have been here for more than 3 generations, making eviction a tricky issue.
The Indian government has taken various initiatives, including the passing of laws pertaining to slum clearance, way back in 1970. But only some schemes worked, while most were delayed or are still kept on hold. All said and done, the picture hasn't changed much.
What’s the way out?
Rehabilitation should be made a reality, which means right implementation of schemes and weeding out corruption. For this, the government has to work towards offering a dignified life to these people. They should be provided with houses which they can afford. Since their wages are generally low, they must be able to maintain their dwellings. Therefore, income levels and right employment opportunities need to be tackled carefully. All slum-dwellers are concentrated in Mumbai alone as they find a way of livelihood here. So employment should be created in places around Mumbai.
Some government efforts have shown positive results. While some slums on railway land have been re-settled, the rehabilitation near Mithi River is also showing good results. The Maharashtra government has also planned the Dharavi Development Project which is considered to be the world’s largest slum rehabilitation program. Expected to cost US$ 1,258 million, this project aims at making Mumbai slum-free by 2015. The project focuses on providing free houses to slum-dwellers in addition to creating a decent environment.
Is removal of slums the only solution? The government relies heavily on slum dwellers for votes. So will slums ever be totally eradicated? What do you think?