Slums & Money – two

Growth gives hope to India’s poor, By Karishma Vaswani, BBC Mumbai business correspondent, April 18, 2006:

India’s rapid economic growth has brought benefits for rich and poor alike, especially in its booming financial centre, Mumbai. On any given night at Mumbai’s Cream Centre it is almost impossible to get a table … Some are turned away at the door, or asked to wait at least an hour for a table … just a few kilometres away from the happily satiated families and the hustle and bustle of Marine Drive and Cream Centre lies Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. Millions live in poverty in Dharavai … Sandwiched in between two of Mumbai’s main railway stations, it is a glaring reminder that growth has yet to reach all corners of India.

Over one million people live in the Dharavi slum, which covers about 1.75 square kilometres of swampy, muddy land. The oldest hutment was built here about a hundred years ago. And still the residents of Dharavi live in cramped housing with little or no sanitation. A shack at Dharavi can cost about $10,000, and more than 10 people might live in one at any given time. Dharavi has sprouted in the centre of Mumbai mainly because of a lack of affordable housing for the thousands who move here from around the country, in search of the great Mumbai Dream. Unemployment is rampant in the North Eastern belt of India, so many flee to live in slums in Mumbai and earn a living rather than starve on peasant farms at home.

Informal Economy: But even here at Dharavi there are signs that the effects of growth are starting to trickle down. It has become a production hub for handmade goods like clay pots and garments. The business provides a livelihood for the millions that live here. Pots made in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, bring money to the poor. That trade is catching the attention of many. Mumbai tour operator Reality Tours and Travel takes curious tourists around Dharavi to highlight the industry there. Set up by an Englishman and an Indian, the idea for a slum tour in Mumbai came from the famous Brazil tours. But they insists the tour is not there showcase Dharavi’s poverty. Instead they want to showcase the growth that industry and production has brought to Dharavi.

“Not many people know this, but there’s a million dollar production industry in Dharavi,” says Reality Tours and Travel tour guide Azania Thomas. “Much of it is of course part of the informal economy of India, the parallel economy as we like to call it. “That’s what we want to highlight on our slum tours. That this is the other side of Mumbai, away from the glitzy restaurants, Marine Drive and the Gateway of India: even in slums like Dharavi, there is industry.” (Read the whole article on BBC News).

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