FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Project Mumbai Makeover

by SHIVALI TUKDEO

Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra (India) was recently in the US, marketing and showcasing Maharashtra for possible investors. Hopping between New York and the Napa Valley; Microsoft and Hollywood, business delegates and cultural conventions, Deshmukh must be glad to have escaped the acute water and power shortage, dying farmers, agitated bar workers, and growing resistance of the displaced slum dwellers of Mumbai. They have had it worst in “the most industrialized state” of India.

Three months since assuming power in Maharashtra, the United Democratic Front (UDF) — a coalition led by Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) began its assault on Mumbai’s poor. Announcing the “development and beautification plan” for Mumbai, Chief Minister Deshmukh launched a massive demolition drive that rendered 250,000 people homeless by December 2004. Justifying the first round of demolitions, Deshmukh thundered, “Many people will be inconvenienced and will have to make sacrifices if the city has to develop…The situation in Mumbai has deteriorated so much that there is hardly an inch of space left for migrants”. Deshmukh’s words were much appreciated by the local elite who helped co-construct a rabid rhetoric that demonized slum dwellers. After all, they are in for a free ride– they don’t pay taxes, and what’s worst, they are a threat to national security! Vijay Kalam-Patil, the demolitions officer proclaimed, ” We want to put the fear of the consequences of migration into these people. We have to restrain them from coming to Mumbai.” The migrant poor of Mumbai were to be controlled and the state could afford to forget about their rights.

Incidentally, when thousands of evicted people had no home to go to, the government was busy hosting Pravasi Bharatiya Sammelan 2005 (Convention of the Non-Resident Indians) in Mumbai from January 7-9. Deshmukh welcomed his rich NRI brethren with open arms, assuring them “the best investment climate in the country” and offered “a red carpet” to overseas Indians who would be willing to invest in “health, education, power, water, sun radiation (whatever that means!), communication, IT, and BT.” [1] Bending backwards to attract foreign investment, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a historic announcement in the same convention: dual citizenship for overseas Indians. With an entire ministry catered to Overseas Indians, and aggressive neoliberal policies advocating for greater freedom to corporations, the “global Indian power” dream is dreamed at the cost of denying basic rights to poor. For all the talk around glossy
Shanghai model and transforming Mumbai into Shanghai, recent Amnesty International report (December 2004) points out the contrary. [2] This report documents massive evacuations in Shanghai that led to displacing thousands of poor people from central neighborhoods of the city. These evacuations were carried out to give way to risk-free investments and foreign markets.

Too eager to emulate Shanghai, the Indian government has chosen to get rid of thousands of migrant poor for the comforts of migrant rich. In the midst of illegal demolitions and police brutalities, Mumbai’s poor have organized a spectacular struggle since December 2004, when more than twenty local organizations formed “Joint Action Committee for Slums” (JACS). Displaced people from various parts of India and slum dwellers from other cities soon joined JACS and the struggle has grown under the banner of “National Alliance of People’s Movements” (NAPM). With no prior notice given to slum dwellers and no plans for resettlements, Indian government stands guilty of violating the right to adequate housing, guaranteed by International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. According to the United Nations, “The practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights. All Governments provide immediate restitution, compensation and/or appropriate and sufficient alternative accommodation or land, consistent with their wishes and needs, to persons and communities that have been forcibly evicted, following mutually satisfactory negotiations with the affected persons or groups.”[3]

The ugly nexus between Mumbai’s realtors and politicians reveals systematic violations of the Urban Land Ceiling Regulation Act (ULCRA). Introduced to prevent concentration of land ownership in urban areas, the main aim of ULCRA is to redistribute surplus land to urban poor. In reality, exemptions and blatant violations of this act have resulted in big builders grabbing the land reserved for low-income communities. Should the government confiscate projects built on violations of ULCRA in Mumbai, the available land will be able to house 200,000 people. Demolitions, if any, deserve be carried out on vast amounts of illegal land, owned and developed by a handful business tycoons in Mumbai. As the struggle of slum dwellers has intensified and issues around public resources and rights have surfaced, the construction industry and corporations have demanded that the ULCRA be repealed. Bowing to the construction lobby and keeping up with the practice of war on poor, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram recently expressed a possibility of repelling Urban Land Ceiling Regulation Act. Quite consistent with the tenets of “secular, socialist, democratic republic!”

Amidst poverty and structural inequality, the poor bear the brunt of developmental initiatives. Poor communities are tossed around, be it large dams, highway and flyover constructions, or collapsing agrarian economy. Dispossessed and dislocated, the poor turn to Mumbai, where they face several evictions before they can find a livable place. Mumbai rips off labor and life from its poor, but does not believe that they have rights. In his moving poem ‘Mumbai’, Narayan Surve [4] talks about the hardship, hope and invisibility of migrant poor:

“My father came down the Sahyadris
A rag over his shoulder

He stood at your doorstep
With nothing but his labor.

My father withered away toiling
So will I, and my little ones?

Perhaps, they too will face such sad nights
Wrapped in coils of darkness.

My hear wells up,
Seeks an outlet

For it was my father,
Who sculpted your epic in stone.”

Demolitions have brought down thousands of Mumbai’s poor on streets. They remain homeless as the rains pour down the city, and Deshmukh strikes a deal with Microsoft.

SHIVALI TUKDEO, a graduate student at University of Illinois, Urbana
Champaign, can be reached at: tukdeo@uiuc.edu

 

Notes:

[1] http://www.indiaday.org/program/Inaugural.asp#Deshmukh

[2] http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa170452004

[3] http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa170452004

[4] From Narayan Surve’s ‘Majhe Vidyapeeth’ (My University)

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail