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Home > News > PTI

Dharavi slumdwellers threaten agitation

May 29, 2007 22:33 IST

Dwellers of Asia's largest slum Dharavi and other slums surrounding the city's airport have threatened agitation if they are not made equal partners in the plans for resettlement by the government.

"The global tenders are going to be floated tomorrow by the agency responsible for the development of Dharavi and if it is not acceptable to the slum dwellers, then we will launch road and rail blocks in a big way," the Magsaysay Award-winner and president of National Slum Dwellers Federation Joachim Arputham told PTI here today.

"They (slum dwellers) are not opposed to redevelopment and resettlement but want to be consulted and involved in the plans," he said.

Arputham has influenced UK, Germany and Netherlands-based financial institutions not to promote the builders in slum redevelopment unless the slum dwellers are allowed to have a say in the process.

"United States and World Bank are already supporting our cause and now UK, Netherlands and Germany have promised that the loan funds will not be disbursed to the builders who do not bother taking slum dwellers as equal partners," he said.

"We have also made arrangements to ensure that no funding comes from China," he said.

"They (slum dwellers) offer the private companies and government agencies a real partnership, but if this offer is ignored they will be forced to protest," he also said in his open letter to the UK-based International Institute for Environment Development.

The slums adjoining the Airport and Dharavi are both due to be redeveloped under plans which threaten the homes and livelihoods of one million slum dwellers as well as thousands of local businesses.

Arputham said, "Past experience shows that such partnerships can save developers time and money, while ensuring that the needs of the urban poor are addressed."

"We want a partnership in making both these development plans and other plans in Mumbai a success," he said.

Arputham had previously helped to organise successful partnerships between the urban poor and developers. Between 2001 and 2003, slum dwellers and their federations in Mumbai worked with the state government and railway authorities to move 60,000 people whose homes were next to the railway tracks to allow rail improvements.

There was no conflict and they moved on the designated day. Slum dwellers' federations are involved in many other partnerships with local governments and businesses � for instance in making space for public works and building and managing hundreds of community toilets and many housing schemes, he said.

Meanwhile, David Satterthwaite, senior fellow with the Human Settlements Group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, said in a communication here, "Arputham and the savings groups and federations formed by slum dwellers in Mumbai have shown their capacity to work with government and businesses in improving slums or re-housing slum dwellers on a very large scale."

"If the tenders are not favourable to the slum dwellers demands, then they are also capable of organising huge protest rallies," Satterthwaite said.

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