Obviously eviction on such a large scale is going to present
a megascale human problem. Rehabilitation of slum dwellers
elsewhere is both costly and impractical. People live close
to their means of livelihood and slums come up because of
economic forces. And there are bound to be political compulsions
at work. In a democracy, numbers speak. No party can ignore
the urban poor. Greater Mumbai now has 37 Assembly Constituencies
out of Maharashtra's 288. With delimitation based on 2001
census, this number may well exceed 50.
are some voices supporting ban on entry of migrants to Mumbai
unless they have a place to live. But constitutionally such
a practice is impermissible. Every citizen has a right of
movement, residence and employment all over the country.
Only Communist dictatorships succeeded in preventing people
from migrating to big cities.
this is a problem with no obvious solution. And yet, we
cannot wish away the problem. In many ways, the problems
of Mumbai are not unique. Delhi, with a population of 11.7
million, has over 3 million slum dwellers in 1500 shanty
towns. All other major cities face similar problems. And
yet India is rapidly urbanizing. Already, with over 310
million, India has the second largest urban population in
the world. India Development Report 2002 says that over
two-thirds of the urban population lives in the 34 urban
agglomerations with population exceeding one million.
urbanization is a global trend. The level of urbanization
in the world increased from 30% in 1950 to 51% in 1990.
The most rapid urbanization is witnessed in developing countries,
where the urban population ratios doubled. This, with a
high population growth has exerted enormous pressure on
say that with rapid economic growth, spatial concentration
of development, and consequent growth of cities is inevitable.
Burgess and Venables argue that access to labour, capital
and markets, basic infrastructure, skills, technical know-how,
networks and market linkages make cities efficient in modern
production. As a result the poor migrate from under-developed
regions in search of livelihoods. That is why the number
of cities in the world with a population of more than 1
million went up from 115 in 1960 to 416 in 2000; for cities
of more than 4 million the increase was from 18 to 53; and
for more than 12 million (megacities) from 1 to 11 (Henderson
2003). Dominance of megacities is particularly common in
problem is exacerbated in India by enormous regional economic
disparities. Maharashtra, India's richest large state, enjoys
a percapita income 3.5 times higher than that of our poorest
state, Bihar. And this disparity is growing, as poorer areas
are stagnating. Mumbai therefore is a magnet to many abjectly
poor rural Indians.
India as a whole is a poor country, and most regions are
densely populated. Migration therefore leads to growth of
urban poverty and serious divisions in society. Sons of
the soil policies and regional chauvinism are manifestations
of these problems. In a fundamental sense, Mumbai's fate
is inextricably linked to Bihar.
can be done to address the crisis? First, we need to constantly
reinvent our cities, and allow growth with dispersion, with
adequate space for the poor. Slums are a result of poor
planning, lack of anticipation and passive management. People
do not court misery. Desperation and growing job opportunities
force them to live in slums close to work. Second, public
housing and humane rehabilitation of the poor in residential
zones must be a high priority. The problems of big cities
are a national problem, and must be addressed nationally.
Third, massive investments are needed in infrastructure
to promote growth in poor regions. If Bihar dies, India
cannot survive. What we need is in situ urbanization, as
seen in Tamil Nadu; not large-scale migration to distant
big cities. But money is not enough. Lawlessness, corruption
and intense casteism and oppression cannot promote growth.
Strong political will to establish rule of law and sensible
governance reforms are critical to promote prosperity, give
hope to millions and create local counter-magnets.