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Urban Slums ...

Mostly when we talk of slums we consider them to be the negatives in an urbane locality developed due to immigration of poor rural populace to urban areas. However, not all slums get created due to immigration of rural poor to urban areas; in a city like Mumbai one would find slums getting created due to a completely opposite reason - spread of urban populace to semi-rural areas.

I live in an area known as Hiranandani in Powai (to rekindle your memories this is the area which is nowadays the most ‘shot’ area in Bollywod movies). Powai is a relatively new locality in Mumbai - there were IIT, NITIE and a Naval colony in this area since a long time, but the area was otherwise a bit unknown to the Lokhandawala-Colaba crowd of Mumbai. This was probably because the area is hilly and hence not so fit for construction. The hills surrounding this area were inhabited by small villages (2-3 villages in the whole area)

However, a couple of years ago Hiranandani developers came and started construction of a posh locality here and urban population soon started settling. With this came cars, trucks, cemented roads and other paraphernalia of the urban environment. But what happened to the villages?

The people in the villages got jobs from maid servants to road sweepers to doodhwalas and shopkeepers. However, the villages themselves were transformed into slums. Since the area around the villages was urbanized and made ‘pucca’ – the villagers lost their open spaces where they could grow vegetables, defecate or for that mater - run amock.

No builder, no urban citizen has constructed proper toilets or closed vegetable gardens for these villagers who now have become another bunch of slum dwellers in the city. The simple and clean lifestyle of the villagers has become a difficult and dirty routine of the city. While I have never been a supporter of the likes of Medha Patkar, everyday when I pass through the slum near my place, I start to question myself as to whether such development is environmentally and humanely justifiable!

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