The Mumbai Dharavi slum

The description of the Dharavi slum in the Economist reminded me the Book Shantaram from which I learned the first time that these big slums are not these places of pure despair but human communities of a tremendous complexicity.
And I like Marxists of the type of Mr. Korde!!!!!

read the excerpt from

"With reliable power and water, many of Dharavi's residents have been able to start businesses inside the slum. In this they had a great advantage—the other main reason for the slum's rise. As Bombay expanded, so Dharavi became the heart of India's commercial capital. Indeed, in a city of notoriously rotten infrastructure, the slum is a transport hub. It is sandwiched between Mumbai's two main railway lines and ringed by six stations. In addition, Dharavi's hutment industrialists enjoy the competitive advantages of slum-life: cheap labour and an environment where government inspectors fear to tread.

Mr Korde, a portly 40-year-old, has seized this opportunity. The son of an unlettered vagrant, he has a business degree from Mumbai University and several small companies: a mobile-phone shop, a printing business, also a share in a co-operative bank. He reckons to earn 25,000 rupees a month. A decade ago, he bought his slum-house, on the western edge of Dharavi, for 450,000 rupees. Its value has almost doubled. “I am a Marxist and also an entrepreneur,” he says, a trifle defensively, in the nearby office of the Communist Party, seated beneath colourful portraits of Stalin, Lenin, Engels and Marx.
Panos Venkatesh Dhobi, swamped with work

An evening stroll through Dharavi with Mr Korde, a well-liked local, is inspiring. Think 19th-century boom-time Brooklyn. In fluorescent-strip-lit shops, in snatched exchanges in the pedestrian crush, as a hookah is passed around a tea-stall, again and again, the stories are the same. Everyone is working hard and everyone is moving up. All Mr Korde's friends—or their fathers—arrived in Dharavi much poorer than they are now. Most own at least one business. Some of these slum-dwellers employ several hundred people.

Aftab Khan is typical. A tailor with a trim moustache, and scholarly wire-rimmed spectacles, he arrived from Uttar Pradesh (UP) 20 years ago, with little more than a needle. He now employs a dozen youths—all recruited in his native village—to turn out 150 items of children's clothing a day. In workhouse fashion, they eat and sleep where they labour, in the upper two floors of a hutment. Reachable only by a ladder and rope, this resembles nothing so much as a tree-house with sewing-machines. Yet for their drudgery, the apprentices earn 200 rupees a day—about four times a rural wage in UP"

Necessarily the Dharavi slum will be destroyed by the Mumbai economic development. Already now it represents 9 Billion of dead capital as it is in the city centre. Hopefully the development will be able to channel the energy of the people into the city development instead of bulldozing down not only the shanties but also the hopes and achievements of the shanty people.

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