Relocation of Slum People: Case Study of Mumbai Railway Slum Relocation

Relocation of the poor involves large-scale exploitation of their rights, human behavior and resources. This claim is about the exploitation of the poor railway slum dwellers who were relocated and their sufferings during and after the relocation. This article is a review and an attempt to highlight he concerns and claims discussed in paper “Beyond evictions in a global city: people managed resettlement in Mumbai – Sheela Patel, Celine d’Cruz and Sundar Burra”

Introduction

Resettlement have always taken place in various cities leading to disadvantage of urban poor. Mumbai has witnessed large number of and various scales of resettlement over the years like Mumbai Port Relocation, Airport Relocation, and slum relocation. “Eviction” is done when municipalities wanted a piece of land. Until recent times, people were evicted and thrown on land without any relocation. . Urban poor get exploited in resettlement programme when they have no on-ground base to support and voice their concerns. Thus exploitation can be prevented by a strong on – ground organizations, active involvement of people and people voicing for their rights.

Public Interest in Planning - Slum Clearance

Claim of Worth: Population displacement caused by infrastructure investment and central city redevelopment is accompanied by impoverishment of lower-income groups

Evidences

The claim deals with the resettlement of 60,000 people living along the Harbour Railway line, Mumbai. Half of the city’s population lives in low-income areas designated by the government as slums and informal settlements. The parameters used in assessment of the costs and benefits for the resettlement did not favour the poor. The city’s location has constraints on expanding city area and finding well-located sites for the ones to be resettled.

People living in the slums themselves wanted resettlement to a better livable and appropriate location with a secure tenure due to constant life threats and filthy living conditions.

According to the resettlement and rehabilitation policy formulated by the state govt, 225 sq-foot flat (free of cost) was to be provided to the displaced ones, but sudden and unplanned evictions led to providing 120 sq. foot temporary accommodations with some basic amenities.

World Bank provides loans for large-scale projects like resettlement and has clear guidelines for those who are displaced under their funding. They are likely to protect those who are resettled but any govt. hardly follows this.

In February/March 2001, Indian Railways demolished 2000 huts against the state govt. policy and against stipulations of MUTP. Despite of the presence of organizations, demolition continued at many sites. The sudden eviction created a havoc and panicky situation everywhere. There was an immediate need to find accommodation for 2000 evicted families. World Bank was reluctant and unused to such a rapid process change.

 Although formations of various organizations helped in some way, but this was temporary as well. Dangers from the evictions kept increasing. Media played a critical role in enhancing the danger of eviction. It always demanded removal of slums because it considered “urban poor” as “free riders”. Also various NGO’s were involved in court cases and had filed petitions in The High Court for the removal of slums.

It was quite evident that moving so many people so quickly was not problem-free. Despite the people wanting to relocate, it involved various problems associated. New sites did not provide any work for the people and thus they had to commute to the previous work locations. This involved extra costs in time and railway fares. Many women worked as maids in their old locations, walking to the nearby middle-class areas. Many who sold goods on street suffered job loss due to less or no demand in the new sites. Due to less no. of schools, many children continued going to the previous schools in the old location. There was difficulty in access to hospitals and postal services and getting regular garbage collection service. Many households faced difficulties for finding ration shops, thus lack of basic food and kerosene. There was a major problem of the electricity as the electricity company claimed that the resettled had to pay the highest rate because the electricity supply was through the communal meter.

So these were the problems faced during and after the relocation of the deprived. But every problem has a solution. In the context of the article, various organisations were formed by the slum dwellers themselves to protect their rights. These federations always supported the deprived and tried to ease out their problems. During the sudden evictions, situation had worsened but these federations were in constant support. Such federations protect the rights of the deprived and protect them from getting exploited.

After the evictions, ration shops were being set up, a bus was organized for the children to commute better, many who lost their jobs, and some were provided jobs near to their site. So the only solution to the resettlement of such large population is the “The FEDERATIONS” which hold some power and protect their communities, involvement of the sufferers and the providing of the equal rights to the every class and caste in the society.

References

  • Beyond evictions in a global city: people managed resettlement in Mumbai – Sheela Patel, Celine d’Cruz and Sundar Burra
  • de Wet, Chris (2001), “Economic development and population displacement; can everybody win?” and Political Weekly December 15, pages 46374645.
  • Sharma, Kalpana (2000), Rediscovering Dharavi, Penguin Books, New Delhi.
    This is also true for the pavement dwellers – see http://www.sparcindia.org
  • See Patel, Sheela and Kalpana Sharma (1998), “One David and three Goliaths: avoiding antipoor solutions to Mumbai’s transport problems”, Environment&Urbanization Vol 10, No 2, pages 149-159.
  • The Alliance is also using cross-subsidies in apartment blocks in a housing development in Dharavi. Dharavi has such a high population concentration that any improvement in housing conditions there that does not involve population displacement needs to build in multi-storey dwellings. A seven-storey dwelling is close to completion with apartments for all those who had to move from the site, but provided at a cost they can afford because other apartments will be sold at market prices. Also, on the ground floor of the building is an office of the bank that helped finance the scheme, and the rent the bank will pay will help cover maintenance costs. See http://www.sparcindia.org