This afternoon I visited Dharavi, the biggest slum in Asia. Originally factories occupied this area. They gave each worker a one-room space for living.
At a certain point, a labor disagreement caused the factories to shut down, and the workers lost their jobs. The disagreement is still hung up in the courts many decades later.
My guide suggests that the residents of Dharavi are quite wealthy given the price of Mumbai real estate. Mumbai law says that anyone who has lived in a place for ten or more years owns it. Most of the residents have been there for thirty years or more in one or two story shacks that over time they have improved into more permanent structures. The brown lines are from hanging toilets, the excrement flows into the polluted river and into the sea.
The residents have formed associations and are able to negotiate with developers who trade the residents’ land to build new highrise apartments. The residents get equivalent space in the new high rise, the developer can build new upscale apartments in area of the slum houses he razes and the government gets rid of the slums for free. According to my guide, in five or ten years there should be no more slums in Mumbai.
The residents operate many businesses in Dharavi. One involves women making pappadams. Women and children roll out the dough on round plates, then set them on baskets to dry, after which they are baked or fried.
Another business, illegal, is cock-fighting. These poor animals have wounds and scars from prior fights.
Pottery is a full-blown cottage industry. They use wheels
Kids are everywhere in Dharavi. They are very friendly. These boys do their homework in the lane, which gives them more light than the dinghy one-room shelters.
Leather is another industry, which requires a lot of processing with toxic chemicals. It doesn’t result in fine leather.
Recycling operations are a big business. After plastic is cut up and made into tiny pellets, they remove colored bits of plastic from the white bits, bit by bit.