URBAN POOR

No matter how tall its skyscrapers or pungent the sea's odour surrounding it, Mumbai, or any city, can be narrowly viewed as just an island that operates on its stomach. It has many mouths to feed and produces very little of it. It serves as a destination, port, and junction for things that pass through to other places with mouths to feed. The city is of the stomach, by the stomach, for the stomach. Everything we do, we do it for food. Here is a window into a few prayers, search, fuel and labour that goes into the food the…

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More than 2400 families from tenements of BDD chawls, have shifted to transit camps over the past year. This is less than half of the number of 5104 tenements meant to be relocated in the Phase-I of the relocation process. While many families from over 16,000 houses will be relocated as part of the BDD redevelopment project, some might opt for rental accommodation on their, and some will shift to their own redeveloped houses as they get ready. If the scale of the project is not overwhelming enough, the initial experiences of residents at transit camps have added to the…

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On the morning of July 29, after continuous overnight rainfall, Prashant Pawar, and his neighbours heard a loud noise along with tremors, which felt like an earthquake. Everyone rushed outside to find the upper floor of a ground+1 storey house adjacent to their residence had collapsed, sending debris crashing down. The upper floor was occupied by a couple, while a family with two children lived on the lower floor. The family from the lower floor managed to escape but Priya Raj, was at home and sustained a head injury and was bleeding profusely. Prashant jumped into the wreckage to help…

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As one passes the bridge in Kotturpuram, the huge mound of construction debris that lies on the left, close to the banks of the Adyar River, cannot escape the eye. Amidst this debris lie the dreams of Kumari and hundreds of other families, whose story we narrated in an earlier report on Citizen Matters Chennai.  Kumari had bought with her hard-earned savings a 280-sq ft room in the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board (TNUHDB) tenements that stood on this site. But that dream lasted for barely a year and a half. Then the Board decided to demolish these buildings…

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Monsoon is a difficult time for the residents of Hanuman Nagar, especially those residing along the banks of the Poisar river. Officially, it may be the river, but practically it is a nullah or a storm water drain, which carries household garbage and even sewage waste.   As the rains intensify, the residents brace themselves for tough times. "It can flood anytime and we may not have enough time to save our belongings, so we start preparing as rains begin. We store our clothes in bundles, so that they can be thrown quickly to our loft to save them from flood…

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More than four days after his younger brother died in a flooded sewer in Govandi in suburban Mumbai, 27-year-old Rahul Kumar was still in a hearse, headed to Gogri in Bihar’s Khagaria district, nearly 2,000 km from the financial capital, where the brothers worked as daily wage labourers.  “He did not want to enter the manhole, usko jabardasti utaara gaya (he was forcibly lowered into the sewer),” Rahul said of his brother Ramkrishna, 25, who died along with their uncle Sudhir Das, 35, on June 24. Rahul said they were construction labourers, who had worked earlier on building underground drainage…

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For the past three years, Anjana’s family of seven has had only one earning member. Anjana and her father, both workers at India United No. 5, a National Textile Corporation (NTC) mill in Mumbai, have been without work ever since the mills closed down during the COVID pandemic. Her brother works at a vegetable store. Expectedly, the income is not sufficient to run the household. “I dropped out after class 9 and started working at the mill in 2019 because the family needed more income. Once COVID happened, the mill closed down. We got full salaries for two to three…

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Banganga is known as the mini Banaras of Mumbai. It is a popular tourist attraction, with hundreds of tourists visiting the Walkeshwar temple every day.  It is located at Malabar Hill, one of the posh areas in Mumbai, known for its charm and beauty. However, a stark contrast to everything around Banganga, is the condition of the informal settlements, especially the sanitation facilities. Most of the community toilets are not usable. They are either locked or are not well maintained. Kalimata Nagar and Sagar Nagar in Banganga are the closest to the sea front. The two toilets constructed for women…

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Gangaram Hivrale has been making trips to the ward office to ask about the “promised” rehabilitation. However, he is yet to get a positive response. It’s been six years since his family was evicted. In 2017, the Bombay High Court had ordered removal of houses for the security of Tansa Pipeline and also ordered rehabilitation based on the 2000 cutoff date for informal housing.  “Every time we go to the ward office to ask about our status of Annexure-2 finalization, we are told there are no houses available in the city. We have all the documents yet, we have to…

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For Sowndharya Gopi, a trans person who grew up in the housing unit of the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board (TNUHDB) in Royapuram, those tenements constituted the centre of her life.  "I have faced discrimination for being a trans person all my life but the people in those housing units, who were my kith and kin, were the first among the few people who accepted me for who I am," says Sowndharya. Recalling the days of her family moving from the thatched huts to the housing unit, Sowndharya says that as many as 240 families living in the nearby…

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