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The Durable Slum

The Durable Slum: Dharavi and the Right to Stay Put in Globalizing Mumbai

Liza Weinstein
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 256
  • Book Info
    The Durable Slum
    Book Description:

    In the center of Mumbai, next to the city's newest and most expensive commercial developments, lies one of Asia's largest slums, where as many as one million squatters live in makeshift housing on one square mile of government land. This is the notorious Dharavi district, best known from the movieSlumdog Millionaire. In recent years, cities from Delhi to Rio de Janeiro have demolished similar slums, at times violently evicting their residents, to make way for development. But Dharavi and its residents have endured for a century, holding on to what is now some of Mumbai's most valuable land.

    InThe Durable Slum, Liza Weinstein draws on a decade of work, including more than a year of firsthand research in Dharavi, to explain how, despite innumerable threats, the slum has persisted for so long, achieving a precarious stability. She describes how economic globalization and rapid urban development are pressuring Indian authorities to eradicate and redevelop Dharavi-and how political conflict, bureaucratic fragmentation, and community resistance have kept the bulldozers at bay. Today the latest ambitious plan for Dharavi's transformation has been stalled, yet the threat of eviction remains, and most residents and observers are simply waiting for the project to be revived or replaced by an even grander scheme.

    Dharavi's remarkable story presents important lessons for a world in which most population growth happens in urban slums even as brutal removals increase. From Nairobi's Kibera to Manila's Tondo, megaslums may be more durable than they appear, their residents retaining a fragile but hard-won right to stay put.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4111-0
    Subjects: History, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. 1-24)

    The narrow lanes and pathways through Dharavi’s densely packed central neighborhoods open up in front of Aneesh Shankar’s house. A flower garden and a courtyard—seemingly out of place in a part of the city where nearly every bit of space is used to either house someone, make something, or sell something—give way to a freshly painted two-story bungalow with a brickshingled roof. The door to the house, an almost three-inch-thick piece of intricately carved teak, is the building’s most striking feature and its most conspicuous display of the owner’s wealth. On the other side of the door, the...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Becoming Asia’s Largest Slum
    (pp. 25-54)

    Dharavi’s early history is usually recounted with an air of nostalgia, tracing the slum of today back to the small, idyllic fishing village it was just a century ago. As its familiar origin myth goes, Dharavi was a sparsely populated village until the middle of the nineteenth century, inhabited by members of the Son Koli caste of fishing people. The Kolis are believed to have lived on India’s western coast for tens of thousands of years, giving the area its sense of fragile premodern permanence. Conveying this sense, the 1909Gazetteer of Bombay City and Islandpoetically describes Bombay’s Koli...

  7. CHAPTER TWO State Interventions and Fragmented Sovereignties
    (pp. 55-84)

    Around the time that Dharavi became “Asia’s largest slum,” another attempt to transform the settlement was launched. Having been allowed to develop more or less independently and free from direct state involvement for over a century, Dharavi became the site of significant government attention in the mid-1980s, when the resources and authorities of the national government, the regional state, and neighborhood big men came together to address the problem of Bombay’s worsening slums. After touring Dharavi in December 1985 and observing its conditions firsthand, India’s then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, committed 1 billion rupees (roughly US$75 million at the time)...

  8. CHAPTER THREE From Labor to Land: An Emerging Political Economy
    (pp. 85-114)

    In the 1980s and 1990s Mumbai¹ underwent a major economic transition, shifting from a mostly manufacturing city to one increasingly dependent on services and consumption. With changes to India’s industrial policy and increased competition from abroad, manufacturing facilities, particularly those associated with the city’s historically powerful textile industry, began to shut their doors and relocate to the rural hinterland. As labor demands shifted, so did the place of slums and slum dwellers in the city’s political economy. At the same time, Mumbai’s land prices were soaring. Unleashed by a series of national-level industrial and monetary reforms, demand for Mumbai real...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Political Entrepreneurship and Enduring Fragmentations
    (pp. 115-140)

    I had been trying for weeks to set up a meeting with Satish Sheynde, the elected BMC councilor for Dharavi’s 176th Ward and a longtime member of the Congress Party. I had heard that Sheynde had been criticizing the Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP) in private conversations and public forums. Meanwhile, these accounts conflicted with official statements about uniform Congress backing for the project. In fact, politicians at all levels of government had assured me that the DRP’s success was virtually guaranteed because “this is a Congress plan” and all party members support it.¹ I finally reached Sheynde by phone, and...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Right to Stay Put
    (pp. 141-166)

    The postmonsoon humidity felt even stickier than normal from within the small courtyard in Kumbharwada, the potters’ settlement in the southeast corner of Dharavi. The potters’ ovens emitted heat and smoke, working overtime to bake enough small clay lamps for the upcoming Diwali festival season. On this morning in late September, several women were busy working, taking clay-stuffs from the ovens and laying lamps, bowls, and planting pots to cool in the warm, smoky air. The men milled about the small open space between the squat brick, aluminum-roofed homes and workshops of Kumbharwada, waiting for Mukesh Mehta to arrive and...

  11. CONCLUSION: Precarious Stability
    (pp. 167-176)

    Almost a decade after the Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP) was announced amid media fanfare and bold proclamations that Mumbai would soon be slum free, the promises have yet to be realized; the project seems poised to become another illustration of Mumbai’s presumed planning pathologies. Caught between global development imperatives and local struggles over the right to stay put, the government has put the project on hold as it works to reconcile these competing objectives. But more than simply an illustration of popular insurgencies thwarting the state’s modernist—and increasingly globalist—imaginings, the stalled DRP demonstrates the deep integration and ultimate...

    (pp. 177-180)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 181-194)
    (pp. 195-210)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 211-216)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-219)