By Kaveri Thara on July 13th 2021
India witnesses a massive crisis in housing with 95.62% (2012) of this shortfall felt by economically weaker sections and low income groups. Yet we do not see these groups mobilising together to force the government to respond to their needs. In cities such as Mumbai where the majority of the population lives in poor housing, we still do not see a mass mobilisation or social movement to push the government into action. Why don’t the urban poor come together when social movements have proved effective in enabling change in policies? This piece answers this question, drawing from a longitudinal ethnography of struggles for rehabilitation housing in Bangalore.
In this paper, the authors bring a challenging perspective to slum studies in Delhi, India, by contrasting
the attempts at ‘slum-free city planning’ (referring to housing programmes for the urban poor) with the ‘durability’ of certain slum settlements. They examine national and local factors that temper the impact of macro-forces of neoliberalism and globalisation on slum clearance in Delhi, including institutional fragmentation, political networks, and social mobilisation. Based on two settlements selected by the Delhi Development Authority to implement its strategy of slum redevelopment under public-private partnership, we show how space-specific configurations and the interplay of actors may contribute instead to the entrenchment of slums. At the settlement level however, ‘durable’ does not mean permanent. Yet, at the city level, slum rehabilitation in partnership with private developers presents serious limits, questioning the emphasis put on this strategy to provide sustainable housing for the urban poor.