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Deconstructing Asia

MUMBAI: Did you know that at least 50 industrial units in Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, have a monthly turnover of Rs one crore each or that the average family income here is between Rs 13,000 and Rs 15,000 a month? That Tamilians form almost 55 per cent of Dharavi’s close to four lakh population, followed by Marathi speaking-people (20 per cent) and the remaining comprising Muslims and North Indians?

For the first time in the country, GIS has been used to map each and every structure and household in this 590-acre slum enclave. As part of the Rs 15,000 crore Dharavi Redevelopment Project, the 18-month-long survey was carried out by Pune-based NGO Mashal, appointed by the Slum Redevelopment Authority (SRA) following protests and criticism that the project was being implemented without anyone knowing the ground realities.

The GIS-based biometric and socio-economic baseline survey will allow a user to- at the click of a button-narrow down on a particular structure and get information about its occupant with his/her picture, thumb impression, family’s profession, earning capacity, religion etc.

According to the survey, which is still in the process of being collated, there are 60,158 structures in Dharavi of which 45,563 tenements are residential in the five sectors that have been demarcated for redevelopment. The Mashal team, however, only surveyed ground-floor structures and did not include people living on the first and second floors. This is because the civic authorities recognise only ground floor tenements in a slum as being eligible for redevelopment.

Sources said that there could be an additional 25,000 families living on the upper floors in Dharavi. If they are left out of the redevelopment, the state government could have a major problem on its hands, they said.

The survey indicates that over 80 per cent of the Dharavi tenements are each about 150 sq ft large. Over a 100 Mashal volunteers carried out the survey for 18 months and initially faced tremendous opposition from some locals with vested interests and even political parties. When the survey team numbered the slum structures, opposing parties launched the `Chuna Lagao Andolan’ and white-washed the numbers. The format for socio-economic survey was printed in English for survey work. After some political parties raised objections to the survey in English, over 40,000 forms were reprinted in Marathi.

The team divided the entire Dharavi into 97 clusters-each area is called a cluster. In each cluster, there are between 700 and 1,200 slum structures. Mashal has started issuing preliminary identity cards to all the slum dwellers in these clusters.