Battle over Mumbai’s slums

March 11, 2011  |   General news   |

Battle over Mumbai’s slums

“Developers hope to raze the slums and make vast profits from commercial projects, but slum residents have other ideas.

Ganesh Krupa Society is part of Golibar, Mumbai’s second largest slum, spanning 140 acres. The site is at the centre of a fierce battle between its residents and a developer that wants to raze the area to make way for a commercial project.

Already concrete homes across this narrow maze of more than 300 dwellings have been demolished.

In January, violence erupted when the developer tried to evict 45 families following a high court order. None of the families moved, claiming their signatures consenting to the project had been forged. Devasandhan Nair, 47, a resident, says: “The basis of redevelopment is consent but our consent was forged. Even a dead woman’s signature was forged. How can the court instruct the builder to evict us when a forgery case has been lodged by us with the police?”

Conflicts between developers and slum dwellers have been unfolding across the city for more than a decade, stalling slum redevelopment projects designed to pull 60% of Mumbai’s population out of harsh living conditions. Under a controversial slum rehabilitation policy, developers can snap up land for commercial development in exchange for building free houses for slum dwellers.

However, slum residents are only entitled to free housing if they have lived in the area to be cleared since before 1995, or, in some cases before 2000, which is a huge stumbling block for state government officials who say they want to make Mumbai slum free. This caveat means almost 70% of slum dwellers in the city are ineligible for a free home and would probably end up in slums elsewhere. Simpreet Singh, an activist, says high levels of migration to the city due to a lack of rural jobs combined with a shortage of affordable housing means people have no choice but to flock to the city and live in slums…”

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