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  • Sanskriti Sinha

Dharavi

"The slum is the measure of civilization."

― Jacob Riis, a Danish-American journalist

Around 689 million people, which is around 9.2% of the global population, live below the poverty line. It is well-known that the highly depressing issue of poverty affects millions of people worldwide. Almost every nation, ranging from the most developed to those still developing, has numerous people living on an average income of 143 rupees a day. One of those unfortunate nations is India, where out of the total population of 1.39 billion, over 97.69 million people are living in poverty. Lamentably, a lot of the less fortunate are forced to live in slums with improper construction and a lack of basic facilities. One of the biggest slums in the world is the one located right here in Mumbai, near Bandra, named Dharavi.


Over 600,000 to 1 million people currently reside in the incredibly small space of 535 acres with the name of Dharavi. The area has horrifying living conditions such as insanely narrow lanes, severely damaged buildings, small shacks and disgustingly smelly open sewers. Besides the inhumanly low standard of living, there are various more problems for the residents of Dharavi. These problems include the shortage of water, misery-increasing sewage lining the streets, common diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhoea, traffic causing noise pollution, and mosquitoes continuing to be a menace to society. Expectedly, most of the work at Dharavi is labour-based which increases the risk of injury and comes with low incomes. Furthermore, the majority of the kids are malnourished and have dental problems as families struggle with finding a steady income. On top of all that, in April, Covid-19 hit Dharavi like a missile with an all-time-high of 64,000 cases.


Fortunately, there is a plan to save Dharavi called "Vision Mumbai". According to BBC, the proposal is to replace squatter settlements with high-quality tall buildings with enough flats to house all Dharavi residents and have some rooms left over. The Indian Government aims to implement essential facilities, more schools, health centres, shops, better roads and increase employment opportunities. The Slum Rehabilitation Authority of Mumbai has also continued work on the area; they have been helping Dharavi for decades and have made several accomplishments including the implementation of auto rickshaws. In addition, Dharavi has combated the current pandemic most efficiently in India as evidenced by its reports of a very small number of new cases for the past few months.


It is clear that the situation in Dharavi has not been brought about by any sort of city planning or engineering issue, instead, it is all caused by the socio-economic situation of our country. Most of those living in Dharavi have gone there willingly. In hopes of getting jobs in the economic capital of India, they disregarded their health and happiness. Luckily, slowly and steadily, their home is now improving and soon enough their dreams will come true. Since we are blessed to live safely in our homes with all the facilities we could ever need, we should use our privilege to raise awareness of Dharavi and do our best to contribute to the improvement of the slum. After all, the duty of each civilian is to help develop their country and every single person, regardless of wealth, is an integral part of India.

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