With 42% living in slums, virus casts long shadow across Mumbai



MUMBAI: In 1898, colonial authorities created the Bombay Improvement Trust on the heels of a devastating plague to upgrade living conditions in the city. The trust opened up congested neighbourhoods, built housing for workers, and laid down strict rules for ventilation and sanitation. Their measures shaped modern Bombay.


Amidst a new pandemic, it’s clear the lessons of the last have been long forgotten. The coronavirus that entered the city largely through its elite is now a threat to its most vulnerable, many of whom live in conditions not too distant from those of the 1890s.


Recent data shows the wards with the most cases are mostly those with the largest slum populations (Dharavi, Kurla, Govandi) or highest population densities (Byculla, Worli). Meanwhile the outbreak is begng to slow down in some affluent areas that saw the first cases —like parts of D ward — as the middle-class have sealed themselves into apartments and gated communities.


The spillover from highrises to slums isn’t surprising—42% of Mumbaikars live in slums, as per the 2011 census. When other low-income housing are included, up to 57% families live in one-room homes where physical distancing is impossible. Public housing, sanitation, and health infrastructure for the poor has been largely stagnant in the past few decades. Despite high-profile programs, there is a 1lakh shortfall in community toilets and an estimated 11lakh shortfall in affordable homes.


The neglect reflects in the delayed measures in poorer areas. “Migrant workers and slum-dwellers have been an afterthought,” says Arun Kumar, CEO of Apnalaya, an NGO that works in slums.

这种忽视反映在贫困地区的措施滞后上。在贫民窟工作的非政府组织Apnalaya的首席执行官Arun Kumar说:“民工和贫民窟居民已经被遗忘了。”

Dharavi is the hotspot of the epidemic but the decadesold settlement is relatively well-supported by NGOs and the municipality. By comparison, slums in the sprawling suburbs of Malad, Bhandup, and Govandi have fewer resources and get less attention. The M/East ward that includes Govandi, for instance, has close to 80% living in slums. The ward ranks bottom on the human development index and could be the next hotspot, says Amita Bhide of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. (However, M/East assistant municipal commissioner S M Dwivedi said testing and facilities are expanding and fatality rates declining.) Slum cases may be limited to a degree by the exodus of poor migrants—an echo of the mass departures during the 1890s plague. Thousands have already left Govandi and Kurla for their distant villages, say local representatives. Still, many who remain are at risk. Near Mithi River in Kurla, people seek help only when they find it difficult to breathe, says local corporator Ashraf Azmi. “We take them to hospital, they are put on ventilators for a couple of days but they do not make it,” he said.

达拉维是疫情热点地区,但这个已有几十年历史的定居点得到了非政府组织和市政当局的大力支持。相比之下,马拉德、班杜普和戈万迪郊区的贫民窟获得的资源更少,得到的关注也更少。例如,包括戈万迪在内的中/东区有近80%的人生活在贫民窟。塔塔社会科学研究所的Amita Bhide说,该区在人类发展指数上排名垫底,可能成为下一个热点。(不过,中/东区助理市政专员S M Dwivedi说,正在扩大检测范围,死亡率正在下降。)


Apnalaya’s Kumar suggests more testing in areas with high populations or large slums. Azmi says there is no point increasing testing unless more beds are made available. “Where do I take them for treatment?” he asks.



Sarang Nath

Vote Bank Politics by allowing illegal hutments This Zuggies are bound to act like Nuke Bomb for Mumbai.




Rabinder Nath Patney

No wonder Udhav Thackeray wants the lock down to continue.



Raja Pillai

nothing will work unless we get rid of this shanties




No govt is willing to take action on slums as they are the votebanks of them



S S Rajguru

The whole of Mumbai is almost a slum with pockets of rich habitats. But this covid has shown the mumbai its true place. Almost a hell hole.



Mahesh Doddaiah

There should be a very dynamic and strict administration required to curb this pandemic. The current political leaders are miserably failed to tackle it.



Anthony Kalia

at present no middle class can afford to buy small house also in Mumbai city which goes to crores, and result slums and shanties



Nemar Naidoo

Since partition took place and Congress becoming govt of India, they should take full responsibility for the condition this country is in. For sixty-five odd yrs, they were in power simply ignored the state of the poor class. Only recently since the new govt took over, there's a ray of hope of upliftment in their lives. Never again let this happen.



arvind rai

Incompetent state govt and policies since independence have brought the city to it's knees.



rahul ahuja

This is right time to dismantle slums in Mumbai



Tanmay Chakrabarti

The greatest problem is that the state is running by a power-hungry man.



vishal patel

it is time to control population of India. otherwise it will be too late.



Biju G

Mumbai is for all practical purposes one big slum



Isn't it true for most of India?



Biju G

No other city in India can match Mumbai either in the kind of wealth generated or squalor.



Vilas Durge

Why focus on Mumbai. Shift business centres out of Mumbai to some other place and stop calling it Financial Capital from here on.




Dutta Pawle

it is time to eliminate people living in slums. release poisonous gases in all the slums and multiple problems will be solved in one go.


I M Indian

hmm an animal like you can advise this...



raja suri

provide them good housing facilities. Blame all earlier governments of Maharashtra




Trains & ST Should have restarted from At-Least 15th April..?? Many of them could have Gone Safely back to Home Towns.. May be Our Lock-Down was Too Early & Too Much Strict..?? That Also Created Dead-lock for Economy..??




What about slums in other Metropolitan cities? Don't just mention Mumbai as a scapegoat



Amit Padmayya

dude Mumbai has the most slums and dirtiest of all metro cities. FYI born in Mumbai so know how it has gone to the dogs



Hemanshu Kothari

Dude Mumbai is worst affected due to poor management.


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