Dharavi Tamil Community: Redevelopment for a Working Class Man
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Summary: Dharavi is popularly termed as the largest slum in Asia. Known to be one of the densest and most layered human settlements in the world, the origin of Dharavi can be traced back to early 20th Century, at the height of the industrialization in the region. Dharavi is an area, which was originally located at the northern periphery of Bombay, but with boundaries of this ever-growing city constantly extending on all sides it has come to occupy prime location today. Today, according to official records, Dharavi is marked as an area spread over 223 hectares, where as many as 18,000 people crowd into a single acre. A 1986 survey by the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) counted 530,225 people (106,045 households) living in 80,518 structures. But considering the large number of 'unofficial/illegal' migration influx, the real number of people living in Dharavi is likely to be much more. Home to approximately one million people, Dharavi populace includes diverse language groups, religious communities and economic units. Most of Dharavi's old residents are from interior Maharashtra, Kutch and Kathiawad region in Gujarat and from Kanyakumari, Thirunelveli, Thuthukudi and Nellai districts in Tamil Nadu. Currently, Dharavi is in the eye of a storm as the prime land that it occupies needs to be 're-developed' to keep in pace with the economic globalization that is sweeping the city. Bombay, the supposed trade capital of India and India, the media acclaimed neo-Asian tiger of the international market, needs to grab more land and the old fashioned settlement of Dharavi must go in order to facilitate that. Currently the whole settlement - the residents' associations, the govt., the international builders' lobby as well as the civil society in Bombay are engaged in intense debate and complex maneuvering to extract the best possible deal out of this. But the problem is what is best for one economic group can be considered damaging by the other.
Following a proposal (valued at Rs. 93 billion -around USD 2.3 billion) by architect Mukesh Mehta, the Govt. has divided Dharavi in five sectors and announced call for tenders to develop each sector from international builders' agencies. The scheme is that profits from the sale of the high-end developments will fund the resettlement of eligible slum dwellers (those who can prove their residence prior to January 1, 1995 which now has been extended to the year 2000) in free 225 sq. ft. (which now has been increased to 269 sq. ft.) flats in multi-story buildings. Developers are also charged with providing some amenities and infrastructural improvements. Though the Govt. declared the names of 19 short listed bidders in January 2008, the whole scheme came under cloud for lack of transparency and absence of proper research. The whole process is stalled at the moment while some organizations are commissioned to conduct some field research on the existing socio-economic structure of Dharavi. Another reason for the 'go slow' policy of the Govt. could be due to impending general election. Most probably the Govt. and specially the ruling party do not want to risk public controversy at this stage.
Following is an interview of a Tamil resident of Dharavi, Mr. Kanakaraj. He belongs to the Adi Dravidar community, the largest Tamil group in Dharavi. He is one of the main organizers of the Tamil migrants under the broad based caste association. Though he lived all his life in Dharavi he is not very sure of the validity of his claim of residence under the current regime of development. Kanakaraj, in some sense, is a typical case study of the urban poor. His parents migrated to this region to escape caste atrocities and acute poverty in their native place and worked as construction workers. The city of Bombay has provided adequate opportunity for them to get settled in the shanty town of Dharavi and provided basic education for the next generation. After 50 years as the son climbs up the social ladder, the neighbourhood of Dharavi gets marked for development and gentrification. Hence with rest of the city beyond their reach the family is once again under the threat of being displaced.
In the South-East side of Dharavi is Matunga, where a large number of Tamil middleclass people reside. In Dharavi reside around 500000 working class and lower middle class Tamilian. Most of the middleclass Tamils are traditionally hold white collar jobs, whereas the Dharavi people were daily wagers. The Sion, Matunga, Chembur belt has several religious and cultural institutions catering exclusively to various South Indian communities. Tamil Nadu was well known for its caste atrocities and according to Kanakaraj that prompted many working class - lower caste people to migrate to Bombay at the beginning of '20th century. The city was booming with various industrial developments and thus was conducive to migration of working class people. After independence since '50s various movements for language based state division picked up all over the country. In Maharashtra the movement was at its pick and was called Sanyukta Maharashtra movement (United Maharashtra movement). (For more detail see the events under 'Sanyukta Maharashtra Talk Show'). The movement was popularly understood as an identity assertion of the working class people in the city (which was mainly Marathi speaking) against the design of the Gujarati community which owned most of the textile and other industries. In 1960 Bombay was declared as the capital of Maharashtra, the state of the Marathi speaking people. Though at that time it was hailed as a victory of the working class, later its agenda was hijacked by the chauvinist and fundamentalist politicians. Shivsena, the Marathi chauvinist party was born in mid '60s with an aggressive campaign against the South Indian communities in the city.
Kanakaraj: This one here...
Prathyusha: Is it the book's name?
Kanakaraj: The book's name is Talisman. They published it.
Prathyusha: This is the function you arranged?
Kanakaraj: Bharati Music Hall, Matunga. The name has changed now.
Prathyusha: When was this?
Kanakaraj: 2002. Then the election happen?
Prathyusha: Which election?
Kanakaraj: Tamil Nadu election... 2001. This is the state level meet of Marathi State Liberation Tigers' Dual voting right. We are very co-operative with all communities in Bombay. So, we gave call for "Community Goodwill Souvenir" (literally translated). People from all castes had advertised in this... it has the history of the Muslim Sangam, the Arundadhiyar (a community name) Sangam gave in their history...
Prathyusha: Are you a member of the Tamil Sangam here?
Kanakaraj: No, I am not... this has the full history (since) '52-57. The agreement Ambedkar reached with Mahatma Gandhi at Poona.
Prathyusha: You mentioned you were born here (off-camera). So, how many years in Bombay is that?
Kanakaraj: 56 years.
Prathyusha: 56 years... In Dharavi since birth?
Kanakaraj: Yes, since birth.
Prathyusha: How has it been since then?
Kanakaraj: When I was born, it was very bad. People who came here to earn a living were Muslims from the xxx. They started tanneries in Dharavi. Looking for work in it, (people came) from Thirunelveli district. The caste atrocities of Nellai district... joblessness... the situation was such that they couldn't look for any livelihood... much oppression- such as -can't walk on the roads, can't hold umbrellas, can't wear slippers- these feelings led them to look for survival in other states. Thinking that since there is no quality living in our own state... we may somehow survive in another state - out of sight (of our people), they migrated to Bombay in 1890-92.-92.
sanykta maharshtra movement
united maharashtra movement
Cross road in Dharavi houses a large number of Tamil Adi Dravidar. Adi Dravidar is a broad caste name for a section of the Tamil low caste migrants in Bombay. They migrated around the beginning of 20th century from Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Chidambaram, Salem, South Arcot, North Arcot, Chengleput and Chennai district in Tamil Nadu. Though in government circular they are listed under three different categories, they are generally referred to as Paraiyar. There are other nomenclature such as Samban and Paraiyan.
Since tannery means handling dead animals it has been traditionally handled by the Muslims and lower caste people. It is said that the tannery in Dharavi was initially started by the Muslims as an activity best suited outside the city. After partition when large number of Muslims migrated to Pakistan they handed over the tanneries to the lower caste Tamils and some Marathis. Since then the city grew and Dharavi came to exist in the middle of it. In recent years the tanneries came under public scrutiny for being a health hazard. But the role of the influential Gujarati community who aggressively champion vegetarianism cannot be ignored either. Few years back the Govt. banned treating hides in Dharavi tanneries for the cause of public health. Presently the hide treating units are pushed them out of the city limit. In Dharavi though the works of treating leather and making finished products continue. Other than pottery, leather is a major industry in Dharavi.
Prathyusha: Dharavi existed then? It was called Dharavi?
Kanakaraj: It existed, and was called Dharavi. But the population was not so high.
Prathyusha: Who were the majority then?
Kanakaraj: There were not many people then. Very less. A total of around 10,000 in the whole of Dharavi.
Prathyusha: And how many Tamils in that?
Kanakaraj: Around 4000. Of all communities. The first community was ours - Adi Dravidar. First our community came, and other communities emulated us. The Vallars, the Nadars, Thevars, Arundhadiyars, the shavers (barber-like), all communities came to Bombay. They got good salaries at the tanneries. The raw materials (ubari porutkal) from there were useful in the household. The leather... karuvelampattai, vaepanpattai... they would soak the leather with those sticks. After the smell was dried they used it as fuel in the stove. The limestone used on the leather would be spread like cement and they would sleep on it. There was not much cement in Dharavi then. It was a far-away settlement. Then the limestone was
cut and used as partitions...
Prathyusha: For a house...
Kanakaraj: For a house. They built huts thus and lived in them.
Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Prathyusha: when was it? 1890s?
Kanakaraj: This is 1910-12-14. In 1913, the Mumbai (South?) Indian Adi Dravidar Mahajana Sangam, a collection of all Tamil, though under a different name then, built a temple.
Prathyusha: Name of the area?
Kanakaraj: Ganeshar Chawl. They built a temple there and held a Ganapathi procession in 1913. Pre-independence. Just like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, unable to collect people against the English, used a Ganapathi festival as an excuse to gather people together and spread the idea of independence, the Tamils here held the Ganeshar festival in 1913. The Sangam was registered in '39. In the name of Mumbai (South?) Indian Adi Dravidar Sangam. Now I am the Vice-President.
Sangam means collective or assembly. The Tamils in the city has been organizing themselves as a collective since early 20th century.
bal gangadhar tilak
Prathyusha: Is there anyone who came into Dharavi still left here?
Kanakaraj: There are many people above 85 years, who came around that time. 3-4 people.
Kanakaraj: There are. I will tell you.
Prathyusha: Your family came here? Your parents?
Kanakaraj: My father was in the military camp at Poona...
Prathyusha: You came from your place...
Kanakaraj: From my place to Poona.
Prathyusha: Parents came to Poona?
Kanakaraj: Poona. They were (labourers) carrying stones during the construction of the military camp at Poona.
Prathyusha: When was this?
Kanakaraj: 1940/44. '40... '39.
Prathyusha: Did only the both of them come?
Kanakaraj: Yes. Just the two of them... No, they actually got married there.
Prathyusha: In Poona? They met there?
Kanakaraj: Yes. They met in Poona and got married and then decided to leave Poona for Bombay and came here. They came to Dharavi and it was all empty here then. There was no Transit camp, 60-feet road, 90-feet road... just 3 buildings. Built in 1944. the building near, there, is called Kanthariya Manzil. The, Ramarwadi, Municipal School, a one-floor building. Then the Kuttywadi building, only these four buildings were in Dharavi. There is this building called Dagad building. Include that, and you have five. All one-storey buildings. That was all then. Then the population increased with time. More public with expectations that you can somehow survive in Bombay came in. Nellai district got to know that the predecessors had come here, worked, married, had children and built a family. So, people from there started arriving in loads in Bombay. Population increased. Then in 1966, there was a big fight. Between the Shivsena and the Tamils. Bal Thackrey said people from other states should be chased out. Only Dharavi hit back.
Wage labourers in the real estate or road construction are one major source of migration. In order to get cheap and obedient workers (the ones who would not indulge in unionizing) the contractors often get laborers in bulk from distant places. During the construction work they are given shelters in the site. But after the construction is over they become the latest addition in the urban homeless category. As they make desperate attempt to survive in the city their citizenship status never get cleared.
Prathyusha: Did you participate?
Kanakaraj: I was a young boy. 12-13 years of age. I threw stones with the crowd. I did not know what the issue was, just threw it with the crowd.
Prathyusha: Anyone who know who actively participated?
Kanakaraj: Many big leaders were active.
Prathyusha: You know them?
Kanakaraj: Yes. I do.
Prathyusha: And your parents?
Kanakaraj: They have passed away.
Prathyusha: Back then?
Kanakaraj: They were there the. Not any more.
Prathyusha: They didn't participate?
Kanakaraj: No. My father was a very calm man, never got into any fight.
Prathyusha: What was the situation during the fight?
Kanakaraj: We were enraged that they wouldn't let us live here, and they that people from a different state are earning money in their state. That was the bone of contention. They hit people all over. But Dharavi had a majority of Tamils, they couldn't hit us, we hit back. Then, it got calm.
Prathyusha: How was the situation? Riots or...
Kanakaraj: Riots in the sense Maharashtrian public came in police garb.
Prathyusha: To attack Tamils?
Kanakaraj: To attack Tamils. We defeated that and chased them out. There was the Shivsena fight. Then, in '72, there was a fight. The, in '75 there was a fight... '74...eh, '79.
Prathyusha: Similar kind of fight?
Kanakaraj: '79 was a community fight. It was published in the Times magazine too.
Prathyusha: Community fight means within the Tamils?
Kanakaraj: Within the Tamils.
Prathyusha: What happened?
Kanakaraj: Between the Nadars and the Adi Dravidars, a big fight for 3 months. In '92-'93... the Hindu-Muslim riots. There have been many similar fights in Dharavi.
The lop sided development, the inter-state migration, urban poverty, urban crime, communalism, identity politics, of many hues... a dense settlement such as Dharavi is a microcosm of the society.
son of the soil
Kanakaraj believes that the poor Tamils first migrated to Bombay in order to escape the caste atrocities. But it seems the trapping of the caste system followed them too. The minor caste differences within the lower caste often bear the resemblance of the caste hierarchy between the Bramhins and the lower castes. Though an urban milieu blunts out the sharp edges of caste hostility to a great extend.
The word 'hygienic' has become synonymous to gentrification. Dharavi and even other slums have been abominated so much in the media for its being unhygienic that even its residents have come to believe that upward mobility means shifting to a 'hygienic' place.
Prathyusha: Acutally, how many communities and castes of Tamils are there in Dharavi?
Kanakaraj: Thevar, Nadar, Adi Dravidar, Arundhadiyar, then the Devendra kula vallalar, Pallar. Then the people who shave, called Maruthuvars... all communities. All the communities in Tamil Nadu are here in Dharavi.
Prathyusha: If you had to give me a number, inside Dharavi...
Kanakaraj: Within Dharavi only, 11-12 communities of Tamils...
Prathyusha: Only in Dharavi, 11-12...
Kanakaraj: 12, yes. Dharavi has no Brahmins. Brahmins are there in Sion, Matunga, Chembur, now in New Bombay, Vashi, they have left. Once rates started escalating in this part, they sold out and bought cheaper, more hygienic places elsewhere. If they lived in 400 square feet here, they have bought a house of 1200 square feet there at the same rate. They have shifted because they wanted hygiene. Now, many people have gone to Poona, Kadakwasla. Very hygienic place. Has a dam, is cool. Poona has developed well.
Prathyusha: Is there no tension amongst Tamils at this point in time? All together?
Kanakaraj: Right now, no. Disputes are settled right then. It doesn't continue. Tamils here have to handle others, the 'sons of the soil'. So, we can't afford to keep fighting internally. Every community has this feeling. Earlier, we Adi Dravidars were more in number.
Prathyusha: Even now?
Kanakaraj: To a certain extent. Dharavi or the whole of Bombay, we are the most. (amongst Tamils) But no (hard) feelings. We have friendly relationships with all communities, like brothers. Nadar Community, Thevar Community, Arundhaduyar community, Devendra Community: all like brothers. That was why we could bring out this souvenir. It is because we are cordial with all communities that we could name this Community Goodwill Souvenir. The aim was Dual Voting Rights, but even in that, our souvenir stressed on the communal harmony of the Mumbai Tamils.
Prathyusha: However together you are, there are bound to be problems. Is there nothing like that?
Kanakaraj: Nothing is discriminated against here. If someone from a community commits a mistake, they control and warn the person if we complain. So, the matter ends there. We have come to survive here. How can we keep quarrelling, forgoing our livelihood? There are no profit-minded leaders and politicians who spur on communal riots here today. It's not like old times' caste feelings; there is awareness and education now.
In his indigenous way Kanakaraj has best understood the scheme of Development. It is actually a 'Law and Order' issue. A shanty town full of narrow labyrinths cannot be administered well. With the growing discontent and urban violence the government must make each settlement open, accessible, mapped in detail and under surveillance. Issues of commerce, livelihood, amenities, public health and the rest are secondary. In the past too wide roads are constructed mainly on the merit of the political situation of an area - in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh in the '70s during the naxal movements, in Kashmir in the '90s, in Punjab in the '80s and so on.
Kanakaraj also displays very superior understanding of economics and development issues. According to him the right to property should be determined by the history of its usage and not by official documents. In a settlement like Dharavi there are many parallel systems running simultaneously - informal understanding, community practices, official lease, multiple use & ownership of a space, urban ecology and so on. A development policy should take all these into account. He also inadvertently draws attention to another phenomena. The hazardous industries are to be pushed beyond the city limit. But then the city would surpass the limit and the industry and its people will need to be displaced again and the cycle will go on without any permanent solution.
Prathyusha: Even the educated stay in Dharavi or they move away?
Kanakaraj: There is shifting. If they are well-educated with a good job, they move out of Dharavi. Many families have left, innumerable, around 3000-4000-5000 families. Only our community.
Prathyusha: Only Adi Dravidars?
Kanakaraj: Only Adi Dravidars who shifted out of Dharavi.
Prathyusha: Over how many years?
Kanakaraj: 10-15 years. Since the Hindu-Muslim riots. And in slums, the police are not able to control fights easily, as they don't know the nooks and corners. That was why the Government brought in this plan to remove huts, bring in multi-storied buildings, and give them away free too to maintain law and order. Ambulance or a fire brigade coming to a spot is today impossible. The roads are narrow and the water tank is so huge. So, it is the Government's plan post-'79... '92-'93 that all huts are now becoming towers.
Prathyusha: So, what's your opinion about this development plan?
Kanakaraj: To give you an honest opinion, the Government should survey an area for how it is. On the day they survey, whatever that is-shop, home-that should be sanctioned. I can't accept that only if you have a license you get a shop or for a ration card get a house.
Prathyusha: Why so?
Kanakaraj: I am uneducated. I came to Bombay, and was running a shop. I didn't get a license. It is my mistake. But, for that, you refuse to give me a shop, how do I accept it? (hypothetical "I", not himself). Tell me. On the day you survey, calculate how many sectors, doorsteps, houses and shops are there in an area. Give them that as such. Asking them for license, this and that... Someone might have multiple shops, someone might have one, some none. All should be treated equal, right. Many Muslims, and some of our guys, have big chawls. They have converted the tanneries to small huts, industrial areas, rent it for others' businesses, and live out of the rent. They will all be destroyed by the government's plan. They have no other source of income, because they came in very early on and had huge lands; the Muslim bosses left after their tannery businesses failed, some Maharashtrians were continuing and the government cancelled their license, that there should be no tanneries in Dharavi. There used to be these huge drums, which would keep rotating with thousands of skins and chemicals inside. They (chemicals) would make the skins soft. All that is cancelled, no drum licenses now. The tanneries have shifted out of Dharavi completely.
Prathyusha: Where is it now?
Kanakaraj: Outside. Poona, Aurangabad...
Prathyusha: They have given licenses there?
Kanakaraj: Yes... there are problems there too. Tanneries give out a lot of dye waste; when dye waste from cloth (most probably meaning the kiln waste in the Kumbharwada) can harm man, what will the leather waste do? That will harm more and so the government has put them out of the city, all over India. It will all shift now.
law & order
Prathyusha: Earlier there was SRA (slum rehabilitation authority). Now, it's divided into sectors. What do you think will be the difference?
Kanakaraj: Earlier, they had a committee with a chairman. The government counted the houses... 200 houses in your area... they would submit proof of the 200 houses, and say they are one committee. The Chairman and committee are paid extra by the builder for their co-operation. So, 180 (square feet) got sanctioned and houses were built to 180 square feet. The rest of Bombay then had only 150, it was 180 here under the Rajiv Gandhi project. 100 crores were given to Dharavi, and one building was built, Gandhinagar Housing Society. 200 houses of 180 square feet each. Then the public fought for some more and now, it's 225, which you got earlier for (Rs.) 1,75,000 to 2,15,000. Now, when SRA was announced, it's between 8 lakhs and 12 lakhs. The prices escalated. Today, very few owners live in there. Proof of residence till 1995, as per government rules, would be there with around 20% of the people. Everyone else would have only an affidavit or a power of attorney. Will the government approve that, what will happen to these people is not known?
Prathyusha: Is this the situation of the sector you are talking about?
Kanakaraj: That will be known only after the sectors come in. The surveys have just started. What I am saying is about is the SRA scheme you asked about. There has been lot of large scale corruption in that. Lots of cheating. Extra 8-10 houses in a society... who gets them? The members and President of the society get it. The, the biggest problem is this...they start a society, hand it over to a builder who build around 150 houses for the residents of the huts there. In the left-over land, he builds private buildings of 60-80 or 100 houses. The money for the construction he gets from the government, and builds the private buildings with the FSI (floor space index) he gets from the government, sells them.
Prathyusha: Profits to him?
Kanakaraj: Profits are his. That's why he spends so much, bribes the government officials, gets the 32 documents he has to get signed ready for each building, all with his own money. Then, he earns in bulk. Then, after he leaves, the 150 SRA scheme residents and the private building people clash. Because they (SRA people) are the old tenants. The 'outsiders' who are the new owners are the new tenants. They don't get along. That's why the SRA is being scrapped and replaced by the sector. That is, let the hutment dwellers stay together, they are used to each other. The new ones must be accommodated separately in Dharavi. If you mix, there will be problems. He will say, I have paid to come here. The other will say, I have been here since so long. The main accusation of people coming to buy houses in Dharavi is this. " who will go to that place where we have to obey them? They are from hutments and they will behave in a certain way. We can't be like them." Because, the private ones pay 10-15, 20 lakhs to buy houses here. They will like only a calm place.
SRA (slum rehabilitation authority) is a govt. body appointed in 1995 to plan, negotiate and supervise the rehabilitation of slum dwellers into multi-storied buildings. Under SRA independent builders rehabilitate the slum dwellers in newly construct buildings and used the balance area for commercial end. The body has come under serious criticism for its nexus with corrupt builders and favouring unworthy agencies with large projects. Many builders take on a slum rehabilitation project in low paying area and do not build up to the FSI (floor space index) that they are entitled for. Then they use the TDR (transfer of development rights) provision to transfer the rights to build in some expensive plots . Thus they make much more profit from the SRA scheme than what it actually meant to be. As a solution to this problem the Govt. proposes a new scheme where Dharavi is divided into 6 sectors. Sectors are large geographical area and each sector is to be developed by one agency. The development will include the construction of the buildings, creating infrastructure and public amenities, sustainable maintenance plan and also negotiation with the original inhabitants. As each sector would get developed under one plan and by one agency, the Govt. hopes to avoid the pitfalls of the SRA system where many small builders are involved.
Kanakaraj is also apprehensive about the 'proof of residence' as the basic criteria to access the redevelopment scheme. According to him very few people will be able to produce authentic papers. He also envisages serious class hostility between the original inhabitants and the new middleclass tenants in the new buildings.
floor space index
slum rehabilitation authority
transfer of development right
Many residents in Dharavi believes and that too for good reason, that the development will enhance the value of their property and then they can sell it out to outsiders and move out of Dharavi. At a smaller scale this has been happening to most of the SRA (slum rehabilitation authority) projects. Even otherwise a wide road, a shopping mall, a flyover etc. always enhance the value of the property nearby. Finally the original residents bow out with some extra money and go back to the fringe in some other location. This is the unsustainable part of this development policy. Homogenisation of space will also need homogenisation of people.
Prathyusha: How big are these places?
Kanakaraj: 225 square feet SRA (meant for the rehabilitated slum dwellers). 550/350 (sq.ft) is for private (who bought the flats from the builders). If it's 350, one square feet is rupees 2500-3000. Even if you buy a 350, it is 10 lakhs. So, will he agree to listen to the decisions of a person living in a free house given by the government? He won't agree, and that's where the image problem is.
Prathyusha: How do such problems affect the Tamils?
Kanakaraj: Tamils are divided into three. There is an area called Kalyanwadi with the Thevar community as majority. Dharavi cross-road completely has Adi Dravidars. 90-feet road is full of the Nadar community.When the 60-feet road came in, Kalyanwadi went up in stature as they got a main road. Same with the 90-feet road Nadar community, their hutments went up in price. Buildings came up. Now, a house there is 12 lakhs. Here, it is 8 lakhs. A difference of 4 lakhs, though it is only a 2-minute pathway in between. The difference is that there is no proper transportation system and big roads here. Just this one road called Dharavi cross-road. On both sides of the road, there is 3-4 furlong spaces. Small lanes for commuting. All this needs to be abolished for ambulances, fire brigade to douse fires, vehicles, SWOT analysis, police to suppress riots... it is a fair proposal right, by the Government.
slum rehabilitation authority
Dharavi, which was once in the outskirt of the city could live in its exotic poverty till the city was far away. But as the BKC (Bandra Kurla complex) next door is being developed as the second business district of Bombay the slum needs to pulled up to be at per with its surrounding. The government has said it in many occasions and now it has become part of the popular vocabulary - Mumbai is to become like Shanghai. Nobody has any idea what does it mean. But it has come to represent the emotion behind the development schemes. The socalled Shanghai model would eradicate poverty, health hazard, stigma, lack of education... so on and so forth. Though an average person like Kanakaraj understands very well the emptiness behind such a slogan - he also knows the inevitability of it. And so does the people like him in Shanghai.
Prathyusha: So, you are very satisfied with the scheme?
Kanakaraj: What satisfaction! I am saying, if you come for a survey today, give the public the position they are in that day.
Prathyusha: But, you are satisfied with the idea behind the scheme?
Kanakaraj: What idea! I am even satisfied (even) with SRA. It is between the old and new tenants.
Prathyusha: But, I heard the quality in SRA is a bit low. Is that so?
Kanakaraj: Quality depends on the builder. Inside, a builder called Aditya has built 4 buildings. So strong! There are different kinds of people who are in business. People who want more, and people who look for satisfaction over money and people who look for fame over money. So, it depends on the builder and one should not blame indiscriminately. But, there has been an accusation.
Prathyusha: But, how is the general trend? How are the buildings?
Kanakaraj: Some buildings are good, and some not.
Prathyusha: But, are most buildings good or not?
Kanakaraj: Most buildings are not.
Prathyusha: Not good?
Kanakaraj: Not good.
Prathyusha: That's why sectors have come in?
Kanakaraj: Not so.
Prathyusha: Then what's the reason?
Kanakaraj: The government wants to develop Dharavi completely. Bombay was from Bombay city (the island city) till Dharavi. From Bandra till Borivali, it was a second Bombay. Now, from Colaba, till Dahisar and Virar, it is Bombay. Now, it has to be divided into parts for administrative purposes. That's why, in Bandra... Mantralaya (govt. administrative office)... all Government offices have come to Bandra. So, Bandra will become the head office of the Bombay which is spread till Dahisar and Virar. Dharavi to Colaba (the Southern most point) will be administered from the old offices. As days go by, it will become two halves and that's what they are gradually doing now, I feel.
Prathyusha: So, that's why sectors are coming in?
Kanakaraj: Not because of that too. In Dharavi, the biggest problem were the riots, the name of Asia's largest slum, the lack of hygienic facilities and roads... problems kept mounting and so the government (wants) to make Dharavi like Shenai (Shanghai) Nagar.
Bandra Kurla complex
bandra kurla complex
slum rehabilitation authority
Prathyusha: Yeah, you were telling me about the sectors.
Kanakaraj: Be it sector... the new thing after SRA (slum rehabilitation authority), what is it...
Kanakaraj: Sector...in tomorrow's Dharavi, no one who earns below rupees 10,000, a poor man can't afford to stay. In today's Dharavi, people earning 3000-4000 can live. Pay a rent of rupees 1000-2000, educate the kids and a family of four can live comfortably in Dharavi on a rupees 10,000 earning. You can even save rupees 1000-2000 a month. In tomorrow's Dharavi, you can't afford the maintenance (cost), buy vegetables as you do today, everything will become costly. Only rich people will come to stay here and we will not be able to match up to them. Only high earners and businessmen will live in Dharavi. Everything will become a tower, of 20-22 floors. Lifts, maintenance of rupees 1000 a month. And they can't jell well.
Prathyusha: That's exactly what I wanted to ask. You were talking about Kalyanwadi's Nadars and Adi Dravidars and all that. So, you are all used to living like this. But, suddenly if you had to live together, in the same apartment, can you?
Kanakaraj: You can't put people together like that, they won't.
Prathyusha: Then, what will they do?
Kanakaraj: Areas are huge, Kalyanwadi itself is a huge area. So, if you build one or two towers there, everyone will fit in. But, will even those people fit and live in - there is a difficulty.
The first casualty of the upward mobility of a neighbourhood is its neighbours. If the squatters don't leave voluntarily then make it impossible for them to live in the area by upgrading the area itself. That is the development mantra of today.
Prathyusha: Why do you say so?
Kanakaraj: Prices. In today's Dharavi, for a family of four, rupees 15-20 worth of vegetables will suffice for a day. Dal around 200 grams, vegetables for rupees 20, and one kilogram of rice. One day, expenditure of rupees 100, inlcuding gas. So, a family of four has a peaceful life for rupees 100 a day. In tomorrow's sector-Dharavi, he needs rupees 400 instead of 100. So, his monthly salary has to at least exceed rupees 15,000. That is, a generation is lost. People who worked as permanents in mills and companies received rupees 1200-1500 salary. They used rupees 300-400 for food needs, rupees 200-300 for clothing, they saved around rupees 500. but in future Dharavi, even a rupees 15,000 salary, no new clothes every year, everyday food, transportation, bus and trains, all said and done, will not let him live in Dharavi. Dharavi is given so much importance because 6 railway stations touch Dharavi. Bandra, Mahim, Matunga road, Central Railway Matunga, King's circle, Sion, plus a new one underway called Dharavi, the seventh. 7 railway stations, 2 bus terminals. But no proper bus transport on any of the roads here, this or that or anywhere. 60-feet has a bus service, 90-feet still doesn't. Train facilities are very good, any railway station is reachable from Dharavi in 10-15 minutes, Central, Western. Any bus terminal. That is why if this place is sectorised, move the rich in, push the poor out... you get beautiful Bombay on one hand with no huts, and that's what the government wants. So, people staying here today can't continue to do so tomorrow.
The industrial Bombay once needed labourers. So there were Marathi workers working in the organized sector of the textile mills and living in Parel in the workers' quarters. There were migrant petty traders and wage workers in slums like Dharavi and Behrampada There were Mathadi community workers in the ports. These people were not only tolerated, even seduced to come and build the city. But the contemporary post-industrialisation Bombay does not need the working class. The need of the present service industry is different. So the working class of Parel is almost erased and the mill compounds are hosting grand scale shopping malls. Now comes the turn of Dharavi. Next will be the sprawling villages of the fisherfolks. There will be many more who would not be able to fit the validity test of the new citizenship.
Prathyusha: Apart from the economical problems, what are the problems of living together as a community?
Kanakaraj: I say there is NO community problem here.
Prathyusha: Nothing will happen post-sectorization too?
Kanakaraj: No. In fact, after sectors, it will more surely not come. Even in huts, there is no community problem. When building lifestyle comes in, you won't know what's happening next door. The difference is that in huts a birth or a death is known to everybody at once, as it is in the open. Buildings are not like that. Building is a room, you go, open your house and stay in there. You shop and don't have a necessity to come outside the home. Even the garbage is lifetd away by the servant after you put it out. You shop yourself, have a stove, a fridge inside and so, you will socialise with the neighbour only if you want to. But, in huts, people participate in each other's troubles as if it were their own. The building chairman will put up a notice, few people read it and out of them, only acquaintances will enquire, else no. Buildings and huts differ this way. Huts spread over a large area is like a family. You talk about communities, Thevars, Nadars and us... we exchange wedding cards and participate in all festivities. So, what's the problem, we are like brothers. Tomorrow, in buildings, it is doubtful if this will exist.
Prathyusha: is that a negative?