While there are conflicting views on whether slums will completely overtake Mumbai's landscape by 2025, as projected by the World Bank, the general consensus is that rehabilitation of slum-dwellers is the only feasible solution
More than half of Mumbai's population now lives in its slums, according to latest statistics from the World Bank (WB), one of the world's largest financial institutions. While almost 54% of the metro's inhabitants live in shanties, another 25-30% live in chawls and on footpaths, with just 10-15% living in apartment buildings, bungalows or high-rises. However, experts rubbish the claim that from being the slum capital of India, Mumbai is now set to become the slum capital of the world.
Projections are that in 20 years, due to factors like a halt in the city's controversial slum demolition scheme, unchecked migration into the city by people in search of jobs, antiquated housing laws and skyrocketing real estate prices, slums will overtake the Mumbai landscape. The WB estimates that 22.5 million people will be living in slums in Mumbai by 2025.
Professor R N Sharma, head of the urban studies unit at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, agrees that the city is being overrun by slums. "Thanks to migration, the city's population is rising rapidly. Already 67% of the city work in the informal sector. If the World Bank estimate of the city reaching a population of 2.25 crore by 2025 is true, slums will be everywhere."
It is estimated that 100-300 new families come to Mumbai every day; most land up in slum colonies or erect shanties on the nearest available footpath. In fact, Business World magazine's recently-released WhiteBook of Marketing 2005 clearly debunks the popular perception that Mumbai houses the largest proportion of the country's elite (the top socio-economic class) population. Mumbai's A-class measures only 14.8%, compared to the national capital Delhi's 25.4% and Chennai's 16.3%.
A Jockin of SPARC, a non-governmental organisation that works with the issue of urban slums, says rehabilitation is the only solution. "This talk about Mumbai having predominantly slums is rubbish. Already 67% of slums on railway land have been resettled. The airport project and the rehabilitation near the Mithi river are also happening at a good pace. These figures of the slum population rising are not true."
Both the current Congress-led coalition government and the former Shiv Sena government came to power in Maharashtra on the strength of their slum rehabilitation schemes. The Sena's scheme envisaged free housing for 40 lakh (400,000) of Mumbai's slum-dwellers, a goal it failed to meet.
Former Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority chief and housing expert Chandrashekhar Prabhu says that every government has tried to impose a slum scheme. "They have never been given an option of choosing from different slum schemes. They have had to choose from one scheme at a time, and all have got their disadvantages."
Source: www.mid-day.com, January 9, 2006