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         Minority Project  :                                                                  


Multi-Sectoral Development of Areas Prone to Communal Tensions in Mumbai


   The RCWS proudly reports on its current prestigious project Multi-Sectoral Development of Areas Prone to Communal Tensions in Mumbai commissioned by the Department of Minorities Development, Government of Maharashtra, through the State Commission for Minorities. Initiated in January 2010, this project has reached a critical stage of data analysis.  This complex study aimed at examining the development deficits in the two minority dominated slums of Mumbai. Dr. Veena Poonacha, the Project Director of the study is able to carry out this very complex study requiring the examination of both secondary and primary sources of information with the support of an able team of researchers. These include, Usha Lalwani, Parul Khanpara, and Akilesh Saran. Apart from an analysis of the primary information gathered the various departments of the Greater Mumbai Municipality Corporation, the  project entails the collection or detailed information from the residents in these two areas and also interviews with various officials from the BMC, Councillors and NGOs. In short, the project is aimed at examining the development deficits in Behrampada and Sion Koliwada (Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar) through an analysis of the official figures and by listening to the voices of the people.

     Comprising Muslim and Sikh minorities respectively, these areas have uniquely different trajectories of growth in the post Independence India. The growth of Behrampada as an urban slum is allied with the growth of Mumbai as a major industrial city. It grew out of the demand for cheap labour in the metropolis.

Behrampada :

Behrampada was carved out of low-lying marshlands by the early migrants into the city.

In course of time, it has grown into one of the largest urban slum of Mumbai. Located partly on railway and state government land, its development is a major challenge: for precariously constructed houses built with waste materials radiate along narrow by-lanes and remains a major fire hazard. As it happened, a couple of years ago, the haphazardly connected electric wires and cables could ignite another major fire destroying life and property. Our initial investigation reveals that the houses destroyed due to the fire have been re-built by the Maharashtra Housing Development Authorities (MHADA), but the people complained about the lack of water supply despite the fact that the pipelines have been laid. This half completed project is a source of great suffering to the people who have to depend on the good-will of others in the adjacent area for water. Nonetheless, despite the tremendous hardships of living in the densely populated area where not a ray of sunlight enter the by-lanes, the area is a beehive of economic activities. There are artisans, vendors, petty tradesmen, carpenters, electricians, blacksmiths and even those working in the manufacturing units of Mumbai.

Sion-Koliwada (Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar) :

The growth of Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar as a Sikh settlement is rooted in the bloody aftermath of colonial history and the partition of the country.

Located on salt pan land, the area (prior to its development as a refugee camp) was an uninhabitable area adjacent to a few Koli villages.  Its development as an important suburb is largely due to Sindhi business enterprise. Although the region still has a large Sikh population, the slums of Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar have people from different parts of the country (representing in a microcosm, the rich cultural diversity of Mumbai). Like Behrampada, the people living the slums of Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar are living in squalor and have very little access to civic amenities. Many of the houses constructed on drains are unsafe. Additionally, since there are no proper toilet facilities near the railway tracks many slum dwellers defecate on railway tracks at the risk of personal safety.