Pragmatic Approach to Slum Rehabilitation in Mumbai City (Part 2 of 4)

Any city goes through an urban process and is directly related to its causal, communicative and action-oriented dimensions of critical spatial thinking framework. The Framework helps us to identify this relation as to how people gather together, live and work, what are the issues faced by them. In the case of Mumbai slums, the framework helps us to identify how the people in these places find themselves responding to a changing and uncertain world. For most places, the challenges they face are mostly not entirely of their own making as it is in the case of the issue of slums in Mumbai.

The first type of question we can ask about urban issues of slums in Mumbai concerns causal analysis. This type of question seeks to explain how the urban processes, practices, interests, and actors generate the conditions through which issues emerge as potential objects of debate, contention, intervention, management, and regulation. The framework, give ways to conceive linkages and interconnectivity that can help us make sense of the challenges faced by slums in Mumbai, and how place-based issues arise, and how they take shape and gain intensity.

Related: Pragmatic Approach to Slum Rehabilitation in Mumbai City (Part 1 of 4)

In Mumbai, slums do exist and struggle to emerge from colonial exploitation, economic isolation, political anarchy, sectarian violence, and a host of other prevailing conditions. Economic poverty is the principal reason information of slums where people do not have money and little prospects of getting any. At the same time, people who do have money want to hold on to it. As a consequence of this situation, people have inadequate food, drinking water, medical care, education, and have little margin to escape their poverty by moving away or up. Such poverty is a result of unequal distribution of wealth and resources it can buy and control. (Woods, 2008).

Mumbai is a commercial capital of India, and, therefore, there are many exogenous jobs which are located in the city. Families of these employees stay along with them in the city and these families require local services of various kinds such as restaurants, laundry, and vegetable seller and have become a part of endogenous jobs. These endogenous jobs holders also have families and need the same services and they are directly linked to the size of the city’s population, and the two will grow together (Patel, 2010). Most of the slum dwellers are part of these endogenous jobs and help immensely to develop city’s economy with annual output estimated to be $600 Million to more than $1Billion (Yardley, 2016).

Recycling Plastic Chemicals
Five sectors of Dharavi with different Economic Industries            (Source: Nijman 2015)
  • Sector 1: Recycling Plastic Chemicals
  • Sector 2: Pottery
  • Sector 3: Garments, Building Materials, Leather Products, Jewelry
  • Sector 4: Garments and Food
  • Sector 5: Garments and Food

To illustrate, as shown in figure 3 in Dharavi slum in Mumbai, which is divided into five sectors, each sector has its own endogenous jobs which give services to the city. These favorable market conditions attract migrants from rural areas to Mumbai city in search of jobs. Other than migration, due to natural growth within Mumbai city, there is an issue of surplus labor in urban areas which aggravates the situation and results in further reduction of the average income of the urban poor making them poorer.

The disparity in a high rate of migration from rural areas and low rate of growth in industrial employment leads to uncontrolled urbanization and unemployment. Thus, city undergoes through interlinked urban processes and rise in population primarily because of three reasons which include, the natural growth of population, rural-to-urban migration, and reclassification of rural areas as urban in the course of time (Jagdale, 2014). Further to this, no attention is paid to control of such migration by the freely permitted growth of jobs in the city. This rise in population leads to competition amongst the workers to form a cheap labor pool which makes them accept the lower wedges than they deserve and would not demand a house, however, miserable the living conditions would be (Patel, 2010). Such labor takes shelter in slums as a result. Also, they have access to a cheap subsidized local transport making it affordable for them to live and work in the city (O’Hare, Abbott, and Barke, 1998).

As far as planning and built environment are concerned in Mumbai rapid urbanization has resulted in haphazard growth and spread of slums, which is unchecked and ever growing. This presents a striking feature in the ecological structure of the Mumbai city. Planning issues such as the shortage of developed land for housing, the high prices of land beyond the reach of urban poor, a large influx of rural migrants to the cities in search of jobs result in such unliveable conditions. The efforts of central and state governments remain inadequate due to tremendous pressure on the existing civic amenities and social infrastructure which is exerted by the constant inflow of the migrants coming from rural areas and other parts of the country (Chand).

Other significant factors include misguided, western-based urban planning policies and restricted land and rental housing markets and a historic lack of public investment in the housing sector. In the real estate market, the prices in the city have escalated enormously along with the recent growth in the financial sector.  Consequently, the urban poor has been unable to gain access to the formal housing sector since it is much beyond their income levels. Therefore, more and more of the poor are unwillingly forced to live in unlivable conditions with shanty structures and unhygienic environment (O’Hare, Abbott, and Barke, 1998).

Also  Read: Mumbai Slum Rehabilitation- Communicative Dimension Of Critical Spatial Theory


Woods, L (2008) Woods, L [Blog]. Slums: The Problems [online]. Available at:

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Yardley, J (2016) Dharavi: Self-created special economic zone for the poor. Deccan Herald 11 February [online]. Available at: [Accessed 10 February 2016].

Jagdale, R. (2014) An Overview of Slum Rehabilitation Schemes in Mumbai, India [online].  MSc, University of Texas. Available at: [Accessed 03 February 2016].

O’Hare, G., Abbott, D. and Barke, M. (1998) A review of slum housing policies in Mumbai. Cities [online]. 15(4) pp. 269-283. Available at: [Accessed 13 February 2016].

Patel, S. (2010) Dharavi Makeover or Takeover. Economic and Political Weekly [online]. 45(24) pp. 47-54. Available at: [Accessed 03 February 2016].

Chand, S. (n.d) 11 Major Problems of Urbanisation in India [online].

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