Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Development of Dharavi, India

  Located in Mumbai, the financial capital of India, Dharavi is Asia’s biggest slum, around 283 hectares, that became famous through the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire.  Out of the 22 million population of Mumbai, around 42 percent live in slums and Dharavi houses more than a million people. 

Of the world’s most poverty-stricken people, around 250 million “extreme” or “absolute” poor, 60 million of them are slum dwellers. 

Inequality is at its worst  in India where the top one percent of its population now owns more than 40 percent of the country’s wealth while bottom 50 percent holds only less than 3 percent of the same. 

 In continuation of many aborted attempts in past years to redevelop Dharavi, another one of world’s biggest slum redevelopment plan, Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP), has begun by Adani, India’s largest and the third-richest global corporate billionaire, through private-corporate initiative under the pseudonym of public-private-partnership (PPP).

 Dharavi is going to be another source of fabulous wealth appropriation for Adani whose business empire has ballooned in recent years primarily through real estate and speculation involving both large-scale displacement of the people from their habitat and outright plunder of nature.

Speculative profit from real estate business will be far-reaching including massive displacement of the slum dwellers. Adani’s interest obviously lies not in the rehabilitation of slum dwellers but in the sale component of residential and commercial spaces in the very heart of the city of Mumbai. It is in addition to this that 47.5 acres of Railway land in Dadar, in central Mumbai has been handed over to Adani as an incentive, for which the Railway Ministry is set to get only a paltry 0.21 percent of the profits as per the agreement. 

Policy-decisions in corporate board-rooms and superimposed on the residents by the most corrupt crony capitalist regime in gross disregard of even namesake people’s participation, without seeking people’s concerns in any manner, and totally keeping them in the dark without sharing any details of the agreement between Adani and the regime. It also goes against the Maharashtra Slum Act that provides for people’s participation mandatory for slum redevelopment and rehabilitation. Many people will be evicted and thrown out mercilessly.

The Dharavi renewal project earmarks 65 percent of the construction for rehabilitation and 35 percent for sale in the open market. It will deny housing right for more than half of the residents.  Those who are lucky to to be accommodated will be confined to a corner of the buildable area which is fixed at around 150 hectares only,   permitting residential and commercial space available to Adani under what is called Transferable Development Rights (TDR) for sale in the open market.

 Dharavi is not an ordinary slum, but has a sustaining informal economy providing employment to manyof its residents. It is a hub of tens of thousands of unorganised enterprises manufacturing a wide variety of products such as leather, footwear, textiles, cloths, pottery and even medicines. Thousands of small units employing around 25000 people are engaged in sorting out and recycling almost 80 percent of Mumbai’s solid waste. 

Now, in the guise of Adani-led redevelopment and rehabilitation, this ‘ecosystem’ is going to be destroyed leading to a new ‘ghettoisation’ of Dharavi, even as half of the residents being ‘ineligible’ will be evicted and thrown out with the backing of state power, as exemplified by the notorious Vizhinjam port project in Kerala, which is destined to be nonviable both economically and ecologically.

For the  Adani conglomerate, Dharavi is only the latest in the series of construction projects undertaken by it.  These property projects which are under PPP are also categorised as infrastructure investments today. Hence, together with government grants, many tax and fee concessions, Adani (and others of his kind also) can avail thousands of crore of bank loans for such real estate businesses on the basis of mere ‘good-will’ which are eventually written off as Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) leading to unprecedented crisis of public sector banks in India, a fact recently acknowledged by the RBI Report itself.

 The ‘robber barons’ corporate billionaires with Adani now in the lead are accumulating fabulous wealth primarily concentrating on money-spinning businesses such as the stock market, real estate and outright plunder of nature rather than from the productive sectors of the economy.

 On account of his close proximity and nexus with Modi, Adani has been the most successful crony capitalist in this process. This has been the political basis of his success in many controversial deals pertaining to projects such as coal mines (including the controversial Australian deal), power generation, transmission and distribution, gas distribution, agribusiness, ports, airports, financial services, media, digital services and data centres, and many other infrastructural and real estate projects. No doubt, this gobbling up of country’s resources is backed by a series of pro-corporate laws, fiscal and monetary measures including many tax exemptions and corporate tax reductions. 

The other side of this corporate logic is the manner in which many millions are driven to hitherto unknown levels of poverty, deprivation and destitution.  dark days are ahead for the one million residents of Dharavi.

Dharavi, Asia’s Biggest Slum To Become The El Dorado Of Adani, India’s Biggest Crony Capitalist? | Countercurrents

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