Improving Living Conditions in Dharavi
Mumbai, India plays an integral role in improving living conditions in Dharavi. Being a port city, Mumbai is the commercial capital of India, having operations in the manufacturing and finance sectors. Mumbai is also home to many Bollywood films. The population of Mumbai estimates over 20 million residents. The reason for this increase is because of the squatter settlements. One major squatter settlement is Dharavi, which is home to 1 million people. Dharavi is located between two railway lines on a low-lying land once a garbage dump. A highway that divides the formal city from the informal city determines which areas are slums and which areas are not. A slum is a term that people use to identify unauthorized and illegal residents. Slums often lack basic amenities, including safety measures.

The Characteristics of Squatter Settlements

  • Noisy, overcrowded and smelly.
  • Cardboard houses.
  • Lack of proper sanitation.
  • Increase of population and disease.
  • Strong sense of community.

Despite the stigma of slums, Mumbai is home to well educated, middle-class people who simply do not have adequate housing. Mumbai has been its own micro-industry. For example, it is most prosperous in the making of pottery.

Facts About Mumbai

The world’s population is 7.3 billion since 2011 and the highest growth is in low-income developing countries. Today, 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Urban growth, also called rapid urbanization, is often located in low-income developing countries, as well as emerging and developing countries. The cause of urban growth can be due to natural diseases and migration. Moreover, the job prospects are low and crime and pollution levels rise when the population increases.

The population of Mumbai continues to increase in thousands each year. Some have cited that this could be because of the “push and pull factor,” which is when people leave rural areas for a more urban way of life. Lack of employment or housing can also push people out of rural areas. However, there may be some benefits for urbanization such as increased cultural wealth, more knowledge and skills in the city community and increased economically active elements of the community.

The Vision Mumbai Project

The Vision Mumbai project is improving living conditions in Dharavi by replacing squatter settlements with higher quality flats. With this project, there would be more schools, more shops, better health care centers, better roads and more jobs. Estimates determine the cost to improve the living conditions of Dharavi as 2 billion euros, however.

The current slum redevelopment is based on the government’s initiatives in 1995. Today, private developers can purchase slum land from the government at 25 percent of the fair market value and redevelop it. This means utilizing a plan and developing tools to control population density. Further, they can use building designs to secure safety and health initiatives.

With purchasing and obtaining 70 percent of slum dwellers’ consent, the project is moving forward by removing the dwellers and re-housing them in a free of cost multi-story building. However, the project will only provide this to slum dwellers who can show proof that they occupied the residence prior to Jan. 1, 2000.

Also, on other land areas, the developers may construct other buildings and sell them on the market as a free sale component. An example of this would be the Imperial Towers, the tallest building and one of the most expensive in India. It is obvious the redevelopment initiative has brought growth to the country as real estate in this area has grown since then.

The Slum Redevelopment Authority

The government of Maharashtra implemented an oversight agency called the Slum Redevelopment Authority in 1997. This agency was responsible for evaluating and approving slum redevelopment proposals. In the past two decades, it reestablished and rehabilitated .15 million tenements, as well as approved .12 million more that are waiting to begin.

Another step in improving living conditions in Dharavi includes the implementation of a motorized concrete producer. On April 1, 2012, Dharavi received a motorized rickshaw that weaves around the slums carrying 15-liter buckets of slow-setting concrete. Due to this innovation, residents can add on to their homes. Houses are more spacious, stronger, safer and more comfortable. This adds to a better quality of life for each resident and a start to better living conditions in Dharavi.

– Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

Menstruation in Mumbai
Seventy-five percent of women in India buy sanitary napkins in a brown paper bag or wrapped up in paper because they feel immense shame related to menstruation. This is especially common in more urban areas like Delhi and Mumbai. There is a clear stigma surrounding menstruation in Mumbai, which greatly increases health risks because women are not taking care of their bodies as they should be.

Whether over fear of social discrimination or other reasons, many women change their attitudes and behaviors during menstruation. For example, nearly 50 percent of respondents to a survey by Quartz Media reported that they do not share a bed with their significant other during their periods. Other actions include isolating themselves in their bedroom, avoiding touching food due to a fear of contamination and using old rags rather than sanitary napkins so that shopkeepers do not judge them.

Recent movements have begun in order to destroy this stigma surrounding menstruation in Mumbai and throughout India. Myna Mahila Foundation is an organization that is attempting to make menstruation a less shameful topic.

In 2015, a college student studying at Duke University discovered how she would contribute to this movement. While volunteering in the slums of India, Suhani Jalota looked at the women around her and came to a realization. Jalota recognized that, in a place where menstruation was considered impure, the solution was to talk about empowerment.

With support from her father, Jalota launched the Myna Mahila Foundation in order to employ poor women in Mumbai. She wanted to train the organization’s employees to be entrepreneurs who could create their own products for income. These products just happened to be sanitary products for menstruation and maternity.

Jalota wanted to teach women how to be comfortable talking about their bodies and the natural bodily function of menstruation. She began by employing four women, training them to feel comfortable describing how pads work and then selling them door-to-door.

A few years later, the Myna Mahila Foundation now employs close to 20 women, has sold over 20,000 pads and has over 1,000 loyal customers. The dedicated team, aside from making and selling menstrual and maternity products, also holds workshops and camps to educate women and foster leadership development throughout the community in Mumbai. Its focus on generating empowerment for women has certainly paid off.

One testimonial cited on the foundation’s website says “Before I joined Myna Mahila Foundation, I would be scared to even leave my house to go to the market. But the women I have met here have changed my life – they help me realize my self-confidence and stand by me when I need help. I never want to go back home at the end of the day, as I learn I can only hope that we have many more Myna Mahila in the time to come!”

Jalota’s inspirational goal came true because of her determination to make a change and the support she has received from her family and community. By working together, they are challenging the stigma surrounding menstruation in Mumbai and giving women the confidence they need to chase down their own dreams just like Jalota has.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Google

Feeding the Poor of Mumbai

Dabbawala, the legendary lunch delivery system in Mumbai, India is known worldwide for its reliability. They have delivered lunch in dabbas (lunch boxes) prepared in customers’ homes to their offices for the last 125 years. Every day the Dabbawalas, which translates to “ones who carry the box,” collect lunch boxes from over 200,000 homes and deliver them to their customers’ offices, and then deliver the boxes back to their homes on the same day. These men have a reputation for battling all kinds of weather, floods and even riots to provide their services mostly on foot or bicycle.

Share My Dabba Initiative

A few years back, the Dabbawala Foundation started a new initiative for feeding the poor of Mumbai, in association with Happy Life Welfare Society, a nonprofit organization. The process is very simple: every customer is given stickers and whoever wishes to share their lunch puts a sticker on their lunch box. The boxes with stickers are separated and then distributed through a network of volunteers. As a result, tons of food that would otherwise go to waste every day reaches the needy on the streets with the help of the most efficient delivery system in the city. This is a small step, not a complete solution to the vast starvation problem. But it is a great beginning.

Roti Bank

About 400 Dabbawalas have also started a Roti Bank, a campaign for feeding poor and starving people in Mumbai. They work with party planners and caterers to help reduce food waste that happens at celebrations and weddings. The Dabbawala distributes the food after their shifts from 6 to 9 p.m. each day, feeding the poor of Mumbai.

Apart from the above initiatives, the Dabbawalas are also brand ambassadors for the Clean India Campaign, a volunteer campaign to clean different parts of the city. The Dabbawalas have become an inspiration for many as they use their efficiency and skill to feed the poor of Mumbai.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Google