Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Slums, cities and the web of development -1: Slums are on rise in India

1- Slums are on rise in India 

The slum dwellers and squatters in Mumbai have risen to 60% of 110 lakhs population. They obviously are major vote bank in the metropolis. Obviously the politicians mooted an idea of “giving free houses’ to them.   

Either housing ‘for’ or ‘by’ the slum dwellers is an important issue, because it is the “people’s issue”, and its end does not seem to be anywhere in sight. It is important because in spite of so-called development and progress of science and technologies and the expertise in economics, politics, law, health [medicine], administration, management, info-tech, statistics etc. there seems to be no solution yet in sight.  

Squatters in foreground, Slum-dwellers in the free multistory building behind, Skyscraper in the background for the wealthy investors.
   For want of effective evaluation, ‘giving’ houses to the slum-dwellers and the rural poor, in spite of so much being done by the state, it has remained to the level of lip service. It pampers feudal attitude of the ruling minority. It cannot be termed altruistic as an end in itself.
   It is merely a postponement of treating the root cause by adapting ‘curative’ measures in fashion that we are so much habituated to modern medical practices. In dealing with this problem we must to the end of our rationale by looking at it from all the sides and from within it.
   The attitude, the mindset has to change from ‘curative measures’ to ‘care, preventive and corrective measures’. ‘Giving’ houses to the slum dwellers and the house-less is only a ‘curative’ measure, for self-gratification.

Do we learn from the mistakes?

What would the rulers do if there are many more earthquakes which may affect many more villages and towns?
How often the storms and floods have destroyed the houses, besides, other property and lives, in the country, and to what extent?
What has happened to the ‘Bhopal Gas Tragedy’ victims? How do these and such other events have influenced the planning and efficiency of action?
In what way these have affected our attitudes?
Do these problems belong merely to the ‘compartment’ of disaster management?
Or do they result in (futile) inquiry commission or tribunal, one more act, another department or one more ministry…?

In spite of so-called progress, planning and development the slums are on rise. They are not only in the metropolitan cities, but also in the small towns and along the transit lines, all over the country.

It is not impossible to deal with the problem of slums. But when the question of sharing the resources, equity, standards, energy, prices of farm and forest products etc. come up, the ruling minority, it may be proved, follow double standards. They turn out to be fundamentalist to claim that the development is for common good, not necessarily for the good of all. Hence the slums had been termed as illegal settlements. It is worth a study how metropolitan and large cities and mega-industries devour the resources of the land of the regions more than their due share… 

Contd. Part 2

Slums, cities and the web of development | Author: Remigius de Souza
[Published in the Journal of Indian Institute of Architects, Vol. 61, No. 9,  Dec.1996, p23-25. This is edited version.]

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©Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.


  1. just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all.

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  2. @Nithees Thanks, though I'm late!