On Tuesday, the Adani Group emerged as the highest bidder for the ambitious Dharavi redevelopment project in south-central Mumbai.
The group’s infrastructure arm, Adani Properties, made a bid of Rs 5,069 crore for the integrated project worth around Rs 23,000 crore. He outbid DLF and Shree Naman Developers and bagged the project.
According to reports, the entire project has a timeline of seven years in total. It aims to rehabilitate 6.5 lakh slum dwellers spread over an area of 2.5 sq km.
Residents of Mumbai’s largest slum colony, however, seem wary of the development. They expressed their reservations about this, citing that the locality would lose its “international identity” – a fascinating phenomenon for many tourists.
Uncertainty about the redevelopment
Dharavi is known for its small businesses, and residents there believe the redevelopment will hinder them. They said they were satisfied with the status quo and expressed their uncertainty about what they would get after the reconstruction.
Located at the epicenter of the country’s financial capital, Dharavi supports several small-scale, unorganized industries that produce medicines, leather, footwear and clothing in large quantities. It is known as one of the most significant slum clusters in Asia.
Paul Raffel, who heads the Dharavi Nagrik Seva Sang, expressed his displeasure at the government’s decision to hand over the land – which houses Asia’s largest slum – to the Adani group.
“There are thousands of huts in Dharavi and four to five families live in each hut. But after the redevelopment, they will get only one flat, which may not be enough for them,” he told PTI.
Small Businesses ‘Will Be Done’
Speaking of small business, Raphael said that more than 2,000 idli sellers live in Dharavi and earn a living by traveling around Mumbai for their sales. He said such businesses would be hit en masse.
“Those involved in the production of farsan (salty snacks), leather goods, embroidered garments, imitation jewelry, among others, will be finished. The value of the houses may increase, but there is a high probability that most of them will sell the property and leave the place,” he added.
Local builders, politicians “playing with sentiments”
Local builders and politicians have reportedly started touring the area. They are trying to pacify the residents of Dharavi as elections are approaching.
“People living here speak about 18 languages and engage in various businesses. These people (politicians and builders) are just playing with the sentiments of the locals…,” said Mahesh Ankush Kawle, a resident of Shastri Nagar in Dharavi.
The reconstruction project is being implemented not for the welfare of the local people but for the personal benefit of certain individuals, he claimed.
Seventy-year-old Usha Bai, a resident of Tata Power in Dharavi, who has been selling fruit there for more than 30 years, also expressed her displeasure.
“We are happy here only because we don’t know what will happen to us in the future,” she said.
Another resident Rajaram Upadhyay wondered what would happen to hundreds of religious structures in Dharavi. “We welcome relocation, but everyone should be given appropriate accommodation,” he said.
Dharavi will ‘lose its appeal’
Local resident Ayyub Sheikh said many foreigners from different countries visit Dharavi as tourists to see its spirit and character up close.
“But once the huts are demolished (for redevelopment), Dharavi will lose its appeal and international identity. The locals will move out of Mumbai once the redevelopment starts,” he added.
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