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

Action Orientation:

All these government and non-government organizations mentioned above are working towards the eradication of slums in Mumbai city. The third type of question that arises in a critical spatial thinking framework is understanding the powers that different actors or organizations have and how effectively they can act on urban issues of slums in Mumbai city. A common assumption in urban studies and spatial theory is that the importance of urbanization processes in generating issues and how they are identified and recognized as potential political, public concerns.  It also involves a distinctive style of urban politics, contained at the urban scale and consisting of actors with distinctively localized, place-based interests. In short, it is about, who holds the power, and who is powerful in providing the necessary action required in the urban processes (Allen, 2010). The framework is meant to help us think more openly about the potentials of local action to make a difference in the context of how slum rehabilitation in Mumbai city is shaped by, and, in turn, shape, processes that pass through and reach beyond them. Local institutions are closer in proximity to people’s concerns to recognize the issues and should be empowered to act effectively in certain ways. The critical spatial thinking framework seeks the question of how these localized actions might be undertaken, considering the extra-local dynamics such as politics that both constrain and enable such local interventions.

In the 1980s, the Indian economy underwent a paradigm shift from previously public sector-led economic planning intervention to market-led growth. This change in the economic philosophy led to policy change in dealing with Mumbai City’s housing issue and favored market-led policies with private sector having a greater role to play and emphasized community-based bottom-up policies. Therefore, responsibility was more explicitly upon local communities and was a natural extension to self-help philosophy. Any policy which gives slum dwellers access to, and control over resources is always preferred and therefore, community-based projects of slum rehabilitation and infrastructure development were introduced. However, such projects are not the solution, to all the problems related to housing for the urban poor in the city of Mumbai (O’Hare, Abbott, and Barke, 1998). In other words, while there’s no doubt that the private sector is crucial to alleviate poverty, this doesn’t mean that the state should disappear.  In fact, the state could be of great help if it had invested in very basic infrastructure right from the beginning. (poverties, 2012)

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With this background, slum rehabilitation policy came into being in 1995 when Shiv Sena (a political party) won elections and pledged to beautify the city, expand transportation and infrastructure, eradication of slums and provide formalized housing to four million slum dwellers in Mumbai. The government appointed a Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) by notification in 1995 under the provision of Maharashtra Slum Areas Act 1971. The authority was granted a status of planning authority for redevelopment schemes and was responsible for reviewing, formulating and implementing slum rehabilitation schemes under Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (Amendment) Act 1995 (Risbud, 2003).

A neoliberal policy that the party launched to promote real estate development on a massive scale was known as Slum Rehabilitation Scheme and was different from previous policies of demolition and upgrading slums through regularisation. Slum Rehabilitation Scheme flourished into a new arena of land market governance. It initiated private developers to clear slums and provide housing for the urban poor and also pay an incentive of Rs.20,000/- and earn profit through extra floor space that can be sold in an open market. The market-based policy promised an attractive win-win solution, offering to house for the legitimate poor, land tax revenues for the state, beautification for upper classes, and redevelopment profits for developers (Doshi, 2012).

Slum redevelopment policies gained popularity especially amongst those slum residents whose resettlement would take place in-situ. However, not all slum could be relocated on the same site, because slum clearance also involves infrastructure projects, environmental improvement projects such as river basin clearances, rail expansions, airport modernization and road and overpasses and they would be relocated off-site. For slum areas, a developer can build 2.5 times the actual area on the ground (i.e. Floor Space Index or FSI) and could build it both, on the city and on the suburban lands. Other than FSI any additional floor space for construction was available in the form of Transfer of Development Rights or TDR and was available for the developer in the form of certificate that was issued by the municipal corporation which, a developer can actually construct or sell it in the open market. On-site projects are complicated regarding social as well as legal aspects of the land entitlement. However, off-site resettlements have generated an enormous number of TDRs and achieving a great amount of profit for developers in some of the most expensive areas of the city. These Slum Rehabilitation Scheme neoliberal design features were born out of multi-stakeholder negotiations, including a world-renowned NGO (SPARC), developers, bureaucrats, and Shiv Sena–aligned politicians controlling state and municipal governments (Doshi, 2012).

NGOs helped to ensure those who were excluded from the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme policy to be given the benefit from the policy such as the addition of women to titles and the extension of eligibility to formerly excluded groups known as pavement dwellers. Also, they helped people who could not produce documentary proof that they were staying before the cut-off date on 1 January 1995, as per conditions of the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme. Also, they made sure that Upper floor unit renters and residents would also be ineligible for compensation. The market-oriented model created a novel land market policy that combined the political imperatives of displacement compensation with redevelopment interests and replaced all other public housing and slum improvement schemes (Doshi, 2012).

However, there were certain issues in implementing this novel Slum Rehabilitation Scheme policy such as bureaucratic procedures which involved taking consent from at least 70% of the slum dwellers and a sufficiently large piece of land for rehabilitation is required for its approval. Off-site rehabilitation created problems for livelihoods of one-fifth of the slum population as they were located far from the existing source of their employment and social interactions. For in-situ rehabilitation, the issue of transit accommodation during the construction period along with the transfer of public and private land to slum communities would hamper the complex land ownership issue. High rise apartments with increased floor space would put an additional burden on the existing infrastructure with denser housing and other amenities such as schools, roads, water supply and sewerage. The size of the free tenement was just 225 Sq.ft. with the additional burden of maintenance cost and other costs involved in forming a society, opening bank accounts, etc. Slum dwellers would sell their free house or rent it out and go back to new slums as a result. Builders are reluctant to participate in the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme because of high initial costs of the project and potentially low-profit margin with the government not directly investing in the scheme. The response to the scheme is very limited, out of the total slum population only 1500 families have been given free homes and at this rate, it will take 100 more years to build enough tenements to house Mumbai’s slum dwellers. (O’Hare, Abbott, and Barke, 1998)

There is scope for further modifications in the scheme and make it more pragmatic. To Improve viability of the scheme, the slum density should not exceed 500 dwelling units/ha and it should be a small, homogeneous settlement with locational advantages such as good accessibility and good land value. To improve a number of slums to be rehabilitated, the slum dwellers should be asked to contribute according to their ability to pay and differential floor area ration should be prescribed according to land values in the city. On one hand the present market-led policy is viewed as real estate opportunity but on the other hand, it closes other options of regularisation that could have been desirable and feasible. Currently, the government is only playing a role as a mediator or a facilitator in Slum Rehabilitation Scheme and should play a more proactive role and also consider other options in improving and regularising the slums (Risbud, 2003).

Slum Rehabilitation Schemes in Mumbai have created suitable improvements in many slum areas as compared to other redevelopment policies in other parts of the country which are capital intensive and require high subsidies. Few Factors such as higher land prices and very high-density high-rise development by authorities in Mumbai have facilitated Slum Rehabilitation Schemes in Mumbai. For a wider and effective impact, continuity of policies and political commitments are essential (Risbud, 2003).


In conclusion, there has been an intensified modern trend around the world for clearing the informal slum settlements and provide infrastructure and real estate redevelopment. There are two principals involved in the development of such a global urban strategy. One is a political, economic aspect of accumulation of the dispossessed and the material interests of developers, corporations and transnational financial institutes using public resources for evicting the urban poor. Other is an ambitious political vision of generating world-class cities for the elite consumption by removing poor from the central public space. Both the approaches focus on the agency and the politics of the evicted constituted through differentiated processes of displacement and subject formation (Doshi, 2012)

Critical spatial thinking framework related to the issue of slum rehabilitation in Mumbai does not give a solution to the issue but raises appropriate questions related to the issue with its causal, communicative and action-oriented dimensions to have a broader understanding of the issue, leading to a pragmatic approach that can be taken based on the analysis. The questions raised by the causal analysis is how slums in Mumbai is a product of the urban process through which the city has gone through over the period and is a result of uncontrolled growth in population and urbanization, migration from rural areas in search of jobs. Whether the government authorities find themselves equipped to deal with the inflow of a huge number of migrants or they are left to their mercy for housing and infrastructure? In short, the framework raises questions about the urban processes and whether, both the migrant communities and the government authorities are targeting the basic cause or creating problems for themselves?

Local response to the issue is very effective and shows unique community spirit with hundreds and thousands of slum dwells as members of NSDF and Mahila Milan. The Alliance of these organizations and NGOs such as SPARC, help these communities in negotiating with government agencies and developing their slum rehabilitation projects. However, these NGOs, international organizations and political organizations generated from within the slums have failed to carve out the popular image of the city. The concept of power has been complicated due to the relation between the state and the market and the introduction of a neoliberal style of governance. Within this style of governance, the accountability of the functions of state and the civil society are a blur and are complex networks of power (Young, 2011). It is proven by the fact that NSDF and Mahila Milan are not registered organizations and are victims of lack of proper education. The questions raised by the communicative aspect of critical spatial thinking framework is whether these communities are effective in moving the bureaucracy? What kind of powers do they have and whether they are powerful? Is there any internal resistance or is it a political one?

 The action taken by the government, by introducing slum rehabilitation schemes in 1995 made a landmark achievement in the field of slum rehabilitation. However, mere policies are not enough, rather a comprehensive agenda for the development of slums with a proper time schedule is required with higher allocations for the overall development of water and sanitation facilities in the slums. Thus, the framework raises the question about its implementation. It focuses on the importance of having improved governance and processes at the institutional level to have a smooth functioning, which will enable the benefits of policies to reach slum dwellers. Finally, for effective implementation, the planning system should overcome administrative issues such as decentralized planning, centralized budgeting, and a shortage of human resource (Deshmukh, 2013).

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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]. (2012) Urban Poverty in India, Slamming the Slums. Poverties: Official Website [online]. Available at: [Accessed on 18 February 2016]

Risbud, N. (2003) Understanding Slums: Case Studies for the Global Report On Human Settlements. The case of Mumbai, India [online]. Available at: [Accessed on 20 February 2016].

Doshi, S (2012) The Politics of the Evicted: Redevelopment Subjectivity, and the difference in Mumbai’s Slum Frontier. Antipode [online]. 45(4) pp. 844 – 865 Available at: [Accessed 04 February 2016].