No Clean Toilets, Water, Redevelopment: Dharavi Awaits ‘Achhe Din’

“We pay taxes but where are the facilities?” ask residents and businessmen of Mumbai’s largest slum – Dharavi.

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India’s largest slum, home to lakhs of people and a hub for small businesses – Dharavi, in Mumbai is all this and so much more. As the residents of Dharavi get ready to cast their votes on 29 April, redevelopment seems to be the key factor on their minds.

“Politicians come and promise that they’ll reconstruct the slum areas and give us almost 300 sq ft of rooms, but they never do that,” said student Danish Qureshi. His opinion is echoed by 21-year-old Arbaz Ansari.

“They make these promises but nothing happens. I have been here for 19 years and it’s stayed the same. The slums keep growing. Redevelopment will help us a lot. Our homes are about 200- 250 sq ft and there’s already a kitchen in it. If our families are large, it’s difficult to manage.”
Arbaz Ansari, Resident 

‘Execute Swachh Bharat Properly’

Nearly five years since the Modi government implemented the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission, residents of Dharavi claim their area has been forgotten. Even basic necessities like clean toilets are not available for most of the slum dwellers.

“We want the Swacch Bharat Abhyaan to be executed properly here in Dharavi because health problems are increasing here. All the newborn babies have some problem or the other,” said Abu Talib, a resident.

Anil Dhariwal, a garment shop owner in Dharavi for over 10 years now, adds that those working in the commercial establishments have no choice but to use the filthy public toilets available in the area.

“From here to the Madrasi Mandir and Kela Bakar, there are almost 250 shops but the toilets are not maintained at all. The stench is disgusting. Nothing will happen just by talking about the Swachhta Abhiyaan, work needs to be done regardless of whether it’s the Shiv Sena, BJP, or the Congress.” 
Anil Dhariwal, Shop Owner and Resident 

‘We Pay Taxes But Where Are The Facilities?’

Along with residential structures, Dharavi is also home to over 12,000 commercial establishments. Units like garment, pottery, leather and other small-scale industries provide employment to lakhs of people. Shop owners, however, say that they are still coping from the after effects of GST and demonetisation.

“All of us in the garment line are considering shifting to the business of setting up mandaps for weddings and all, so that at least we'll get some money that we can save. In the garment line right now, if we spend Rs 110 to make a garment, we must sell it for Rs 100. So, there's a loss of Rs 10 every time and we're getting poorer,” said a shop owner.

Twenty-four-year-old Aditya, another shop owner, believes that businessmen in Dharavi have been shortchanged time and again.

“This is the Dharavi market and it produces crores through businesses, and a large sum of tax goes from here. It is a kind of an export market from where goods are exported all over the world. There are barely any facilities in the place that contributes a lot to the Indian economy. There are no proper toilets, no facilities for drinking water, no secure source of materials, and no safety.”
Aditya Dhariwal, shop owner and resident 

“The place that they're getting business and tax from should be developed instead of being made into a topic for political discussion,” he adds.

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