Pragmatic Approach to Slum Rehabilitation in Mumbai City (Part 3 of 4)

Local response to the issue:

The understanding of the communicative processes provides people with opportunities to identify and recognize, share interests and grievance or develop collective strategies to express their concerns (Barnett, 2008). The issue of slums in Mumbai city if viewed as a distinctive form of the social organism is associated with the displacement and relocation of a large number of people from different backgrounds and ensures challenge of forging new forms of social structure. Local response to these challenges was a collective strategy of slum dwellers, forming an Alliance of the Indian NGO, SPARC (Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres) and two people’s organizations, the NSDF and Mahila Milan, and actively getting involved in slum rehabilitation programmes.

These organizations form a collaboration with other towns and cities who have similar issues and share practices from other places and exchange ideas about different models for transforming cities and templates of urban change. Other than these formal organizations there are less formal practices, which can bring an urban change or resist the changes that are being imposed upon them. These include grassroots associations and movements, day-to-day practices of maintaining and reconstructing the urban fabric in slum areas of Mumbai city and spontaneous forms of organization that often spring up in the wake of sudden change or upheaval. However, it is a complex urban process with competing demands and constrained by limited resources and incomplete knowledge.

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

In the 1980s, a wave of street-level protest grew amongst NGOs and grassroots organization following the government’s attempt to evict many thousands of pavement dwellers living along the verges of Mumbai’s highways. The campaign for a constitutional amendment for the fundamental right to housing failed. However, it made a significant impact on the housing issue in Mumbai as part of the national public and political discourse. Also, it saw the emergence of Article 21 – The right to life in the Supreme Court which, was a right based approach to housing, bringing political mobilization around the discourse. Thus, Mumbai’s long history of housing rights activism is linked to issues of citizenship and social change, political struggle and the forces of urbanization and modernization. The role of law in these struggles is complex (Hohmann, 2010)

In the same decade, the Alliance, which was formed, as a result, got involved in working towards building and strengthening the organizations of slum and pavement dwellers and demonstrated, government and international agencies ability of urban poor to design, build and manage projects to improve their housing and infrastructure. The Alliance thus formed was based on the fact that government would not take the issue of slum dwellers seriously unless their protest is conducted by masses. National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) was thus made up of a large number of slum dwellers from different cities that also looked into the legal matters related to land entitlement. Other such federations in Mumbai include the Railway Slum Dwellers Federation, the Airports Authority Slum Dwellers Federation, the Pavement Dwellers Federation and the Dharavi Vikas Samiti (Dharavi Development Committee). These federations then would negotiate with their respective government authorities. At different levels, these are unregistered organizations and are made up of slum dwellers or pavement dwellers and is a defining feature of these federations. Mahila Milan is a decentralized network of women that facilitates daily savings and credit activities and focuses on the delivery of better housing and infrastructure. More than 700,000 households across India are members of the NSDF and Mahila Milan (Burra, 2005). Thus, in response to issues of slums in Mumbai, the slum community was united in dealing with day to day challenges that they faced on a regular basis.

To support these local organizations further, Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centre (SPARC), an NGO with a legal status, which acted as a mediator between slum community and the state, local authorities, financial institutions, and donors. It helps to raise funds; it maintains the accounts and prepares documentation. It bridges the gap between bureaucracy and other formal institutions that the urban poor have to deal with. Over the period, when members of NSDF and Mahila Milan become experienced in such negotiations with the state and local authority, SPARC will withdraw from routine engagement and will explore new windows of opportunity. The role of SPARC here is to provide with skills, knowledge, and confidence to NSDF/Mahila Milan in dealing with public institutions. In these partnerships, what the poor develop themselves is central to the design of solutions (Burra, 2005).

Related: Mumbai Slum Rehabilitation- Communicative Dimension of Critical Spatial Theory

To illustrate some of Alliance’s work, Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) appointed the Alliance as the chief mediator for its rehabilitation project, which involved relocating 16,000 families that lived along the railway tracks. Another example of such project is the redevelopment of 9000 structures along the roads that were being developed by the Mumbai Urban Infrastructure Project (MUIP) in the 2000s where Alliance was appointed as chief nodal agency (Burra, 2005)

As part of Alliance’s work, government officials are invited to visit the cities where Alliance has a substantial presence and where projects are underway. For example, government officials from Delhi had sent their delegation to study slum rehabilitation in Mumbai. Similarly, the government of Karnataka state developed public sanitation in 32 towns based on Pune and Mumbai model and had sent a delegation to visit these cities. The benefit of such field visits of bureaucrats helps them to discuss amongst themselves about new ideas and possibilities that they can apply in their areas or cities and enrich their understanding of the issue. Another side of such visits is building relations with Indian administrative officers, as many of them although get transferred to other posts deal with urban concerns (Burra, 2005)

These efforts and pressure from the Alliance made the government accountable and responsible for improving the condition in slum areas and rehabilitate them. Now, In the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) various government and semi-government organizations are working towards upgrading slums to improve the urban environment in Mumbai. Some examples are MMR Development Authority (MMRDA) and City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), which are regional planning authorities; the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) a planning entity for the industrial estate developed under the control of state government. In addition to these, Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), Slum Rehabilitation Society, Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), etc. are contributing immensely towards eradication of slums in Mumbai. More than 60 registered non‐governmental organizations (NGO’s) are working towards the development of Mumbai slums to make it a good habitable place, as it was reported in 2006 (Sheth, Velaga and Prince, 2009). Thus, from the local organization, the issue has reached government agencies through SPARC for the legitimate implementation of slum rehabilitation schemes.

These people’s organizations need funding sources for implementation of the various projects which, include World Bank, central government, state government, and corporations. Recently, the largest resettlement project ever undertaken in India was to improve the urban environmental quality of Mumbai. This project was funded by the World Bank with Rs.32,000 Million investment. Other than World Bank, Billions of Indian rupees have been invested by several other organizations. The central government funds include Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana, Swarn Jayanti Swayan Rojgar Yojana and Maharashtra state government’s Lok Awas Yojana for the rehabilitation of urban poor. There are reports from municipal authorities that billions of Indian rupees are spent every year before monsoon season preparing for rains (Sheth, Velaga and Prince, 2009). These projects fall under the categories such as slums eradication and relocation, improvement, up‐gradation and redevelopment, and rehabilitation. The government that is now concerned to improve slum conditions make several amendments to the regulations. There is an incremental change in the living conditions of the slum dwellers as a result (Burra, 2005).

Other funding sources \ include Community-Led Infrastructure Finance Facility (CLIFF) which was set up to help the NSDF, Mahila Milan and SPARC to carry out and scale up community-driven infrastructure and housing projects, in conjunction with municipal authorities and the private sector (including banks and landowners). This was considered as a pilot funding instrument for other nations to set up comparable facilities with funding from the UK and the Swedish bilateral aid programmes. Funding from this source is done for locally developed large scale projects and is available to NGOs and people’s organizations that help to leverage funds from other groups and recoup the capital for investment. The funding instrument provides loans, guarantees, and technical assistance to support a range of projects including community managed slum rehabilitation (Burra, 2005)

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Burra, S. (2005) Towards Pro-Poor Framework for Slum Upgrading in Mumbai, India. Environment and Urbanisation [online]. 17(1) pp. 67-88. Available at: [Accessed 30 January 2016].

Barnett, C. (2008) ‘Convening publics: the parasitical spaces of public action’ in Cox, K., Low, M. and Robinson, J. (eds), The Sage Handbook of Political Geography, [online]. London, Sage. Available at: [Accessed 14 February 2016].

Hohmann, J. (2010) Visions of Social Transformation and the invocation of human rights in Mumbai: The struggle for the right to housing. Yale Human Rights And Development Journal [online]. 13(1) pp. 135-184. Available at: [Accessed 03 February 2016].

Sheth, A, Velaga, N. and Price, A (2009) Slum rehabilitation in the context of urban sustainability: a case study of Mumbai, India. [online]. IN: Proceedings of SUE-MoT: 2nd International Conference on Whole Life Urban Sustainability and its Assessment, 22-24th April, Loughborough, UK. Available at: jspui/bitstream/2134/5818/1/Slum%20rehabilitation%20in%20the%20context%20of%20urban%20sustainability.pdf [Accessed 10 February 2016].