There is nothing about Mumbai that hasn’t already been said. Often referred to as the Mayanagri, or the city of dreamers, the hustle in this city never stops! From sitting at Marine Drive at midnight (just to enjoy the endlessness and the serenity of the sea) to enjoying the famous rains of Mumbai with a cup of Chai from your balcony, this city has a lot to offer. But the city of Mumbai has two faces. Behind all the glamorous and shimmering charm of the sea-facing skyscrapers with glass facades, the posh lifestyle, and the happening nightlife, Lies the harsh reality of the city.
This city has developed in extremes. While it contains a few of the most expensive housing projects in the world like Antilia, it also accommodates one of Asia’s largest slum regions i.e. Dharavi. Almost half of the population of this so-called city of dreamers lives in inhabitable dwellings. Various pockets of slum regions and illegal settlements have developed throughout the city. So why is it that most of the people in the Financial capital of the country are forced to live in such low-level dwellings like Chawls and slums? How did this contrast in the cityscape of Mumbai develop? And why is it becoming more and more prominent with each passing day?
Post Independence, the city of Mumbai continued to be one of the most prominent regions for trade and business. Various Indian large-scale businesses like Tata, Birla group, Reliance industries, etc., have their headquarters in Mumbai. All the major IT companies also started setting up their offices here, which persuaded a large chunk of migrants to move to this city for employment.
The city developed in various other fields like art, music, education, and of course, acting! Bollywood, being one of the biggest film industries in the world, has established itself in Mumbai, making it a desirable city for talented people in multiple fields from across the country.
This resulted in a drastic rise in population. And this Mahanagri failed to provide good and affordable housing for its people, and for the workers who have made Mumbai the desired destination that it is today.
Be it a decent middle-class IT employee, a daily wage worker, or a garbage collector, they still have to live in similarly low-level housing development, because there are no decent affordable housing options in the city for the middle class.
But the question remains the same! Why is there such a huge gap in the standards of living? The answer is simple.
One of the reasons behind this is the basic demand and supply concept. The requirement of land is so much more than its availability in Mumbai. This caused the prices of land to skyrocket, to a point where it was not affordable even by the middle-class.
The privatization of the development schemes and housing projects was a major disaster by the government. Subsequently, it all just became about the profits, instead of promoting social welfare projects, which was supposed to be the duty of the government in the first place!
In the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme in Mumbai, there are various innovative changes made in the regulations of development and FSI allowance to use the land as a resource and give opportunities to create affordable housing for the people living in the slum areas. But this was used differently than as intended, as private builders cleared the illegal settlements, built low-cost homes for the people who were living in those slums on a small portion of that land, and utilized the rest of it to create high-end residential projects. And hence, the slumification of the city continued as slum housing seemed like the only way to tackle the situation by the citizens.
Slums are defined as the illegal settlements on land which are completely unsanitary and are in inhabitable conditions. These regions lack the provision of basic facilities like water supply, roads, drainage, etc. In Mumbai, these regions don’t just consist of the lower-income groups of the society, but there are several small businesses and industries in these regions as well. These people are affected mentally and socially because of the constant criticism of being dirty and being labeled as the encroachers of the city.
The southern part of the city was most actively used for trade and business during the reign of Britishers, and even after independence, the southern region of the city continued to grow commercially. This resulted in the fast development of Southern Bombay (or SoBo) and the region became one of the poshest regions, where the prices started increasing drastically.
This gave a chance for residential development and expansion towards the northern side of the city. One might think that slums are a result of the shortage of housing facilities in Mumbai, but apparently, the same city has the highest number of vacant houses. Houses in this city have become an investment for the rich, rather than a facility. This puts the middle-class people of the region in big trouble!
Being able to afford good food, good clothing, etc., but still having to come back to an unsanitary, dingy, and old house after a day full of work, is one of the biggest issues that the middle-class people of Mumbai face.
The basic needs of any human being at the end are Roti, Kapda Aur Makaan (Translated to decent food, clothing, and shelter) but as it turns out, the last one seems to be beyond the reach of almost more than half the population of one of the biggest cities of our country.