February 11, 2005

Tell it to them

I'm just back from a half day spent at one more municipally flattened area: a place at one end of Juhu called Mora Nagar. 200 houses belonging to Koli fishermen, Bombay's original residents, demolished. Boats, nets, rubble, books, papers, dogs running around, several hundred bewildered and upset people.

I will write about it all here soon. But on my way back, I started to think: from the responses I've got here and elsewhere to my writings on Ambujwadi and the slum demolition issue in general, from what others have written about it elsewhere, I know that many people approve of these demolitions.

Not just that. I also know that many people have their theories about why the demolitions are happening, why they are good for the city, who these people who lose their homes are, why they are illegal. Many people even have theories about how poverty must be tackled and the law enforced, and these slum demolitions fit in there as well.

So here's my offer to all these people who have their theories, you know who you are I'm sure: come with me -- or go by yourself if you prefer -- to one or more of these demolished slums. Sit down with the residents and explain your theories to them. Let them hear your ideas from you just like the rest of us hear them from you. Let them hear from you, just like the rest of us hear from you, why slum demolitions are good for Bombay and must go on. Do your best to persuade them of what you say, just as you write so persuasively for the rest of us.

This is an utterly serious offer. A couple of days ago, I actually made it on the phone to one such person; to their credit, this person has agreed to come with me, but after the third week of this month. I’m supposed to call closer to that time and fix a time for the trip. Just that person and me.

But yes, this is a serious offer. Who, reading this, will take me up?

21 comments:

doles said...

Hello Dilip,

I cannot take your generous offer because i am on the other side of the globe right now. However, I would like to say to you (without saying anything to the residents of the slums) that policy makers and intelligent people should have the bigger picture in their minds over tribulations of individual units of society. I agree that it is very tough to be disrupted from one's home - but the longer term benefits of such activity is much far reaching.

Also, you have not said in your blog as to why you want anyone or yourself to go explain the "theories" to the slum dwellers - hence I would not say that the very act of going to the slums to talk to the people is a mistake or unnecessary. Wish you and your phone friend a lot of luck. Keep writing. I hope to watch this space.

Anonymous said...

Mak kau main belakang

gethky said...

Hope you don't mind that I copied your post in my "Sampler" blog.

Sriram said...

Leaving this specific issue alone, I don't follow your logic.

If someone is being punished for doing something wrong, do you think it is necessary to be able to convince them of their wrongdoing? I don't know of any justice system which does that!

Practically, it is almost impossible to convince someone they are wrong (myself included). Trying to do it when they are under duress is definitely futile.

Of course, I am assuming that the settlements in this case are illegal.

Sanketh said...

Dear dilip,

It is almost like I have an opinion on everything, but your posts are ike that and they get me thinking.

On the issue of "slums", honestly I don't know if I have a solution. However, I feel that we had to see this coming. I don't think the solution is to demolish their houses. Alternative housing has to be found. It is impossible for a person in their financial condition to own residences of their own. Their has to be an effort to ensure that they don't end up living on the streets. Government built housing can help.

I believe no matter how determined or honest a government is, it will find it difficult to solve this problem. There has to be an effort to plan better and realize the strain on infrastructure that is inevitable in metros like Mumbai. Rural development holds to key. There has to be significant generation of jobs to counter migration. Considering a significant population in our country is rural more needs to be done to deal with their problems. I feel somehow the problems of people in the cities garner more attention and our rural bretheren get shortchanged. They have as much a right to look for jobs and a better life as their urban counterparts.

I appreciate your effort to bring such topics to our attention. Slum demolitions are often taken for granted because they rarely affect the rich and the middle class. If the house maid is affected we are resourceful in finding someone else who is desperate enough to work at a measley income.

I wish things were different.

Good luck in your effort.
Sanketh

amit varma said...

Dilip

I'd be glad to come, whenever you and mystery person are going. But I agree with Sriram's logic: convincing a wrongdoer of their wrongdoing is not a prerequisite for establishing a wrongdoing. These guys took illegal housing knowing that there was always a risk of this happening, and their bluff has been called. The demolition, Dilip, wasn't illegal, the slums were. Surely it is possible to sympathise with these guys without losing sight of that fact.

I am not, by the way, one of those who is for these slum demolitions by themselves. All the slum-dwellers, as you have pointed out, are an integral part of the city's economy, and there is something wrong with a system that can provide them with jobs but not with housing that they can afford. A holistic solution for this would involve a number of measures (was it you who suggested abolishing the rent-control act?), and slum demolitions alone, without other measures to tackle the problem, is clearly not enough. So until I see what else the Maharashtra government does over the next few months, I reserve my judgement on these demolitions.

But yes, I'll be glad to come with you. Maybe I'll commit some crime along the way as well, so that your heart wells up with affection for me. Ok?

Anirudh Karnick said...

Sriram does have a point.

Anirudh Karnick said...

Sriram does have a point and Amit do have a point.

Anirudh Karnick said...

Sriram and Amit do have a point. Pardon me for my earlier comments.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Doles, thank you for your encouragement, even from the other side of the globe. It is precisely the "longer-term benefits" of these demolitions that I think the residents of those demolished homes would like to hear about. I'll keep you posted.

gethky, I have no problem with your re-posting this.

Anonymous, sorry, I don't follow Tagalog.

Sriram: I didn't say anything about "convincing" people of their "wrongdoing". What I mean is, all of us (the residents of those hutments included, me included) could do with a greater understanding of a complex issue.

Sanky, your thoughts welcome. With you, I think one part of the answer has to be an effort to stimulate opportunity in rural areas.

Anonymous said...

until I see what else the Maharashtra government does over the next few months, I reserve my judgement on these demolitions.Will somebody please clap for this guy? What a profound way to say nothing.

Does he not know that people have been looking for what else the Maharashtra Government does for decades now? (Forget a few months!). For e.g., slum demolitions were a huge issue in the early eighties. What has changed betwen then and the present? Nothing.

The govt did nothing then and it will do nothing now. In fact, govts have gone after slums ever since independence. They have never done anything about slums except for demolishing them. So despite decades of demolishing, we still have slums, more than ever. It should be obvious to anyone that demolishing them is not the answer.

Pay no attention to this guy, DD. He is obvously still sore that his shot at fame was a damp squib.

Best Wishes.
Jai P

Anonymous said...

Jai P: I think anyone who has followed Amit's great coverage of the aftermath of the tsunami, or has followed his cricket journalism before that, will not make uninformed remarks about shots at fame. I'm sure even Dilip D'Souza, who has seen his amazing journalism first-hand, would agree with that.

The point he is raising is valid, and not a "profound way to say nothing". It is silly to judge this government by the efforts of previous governments, or assume that because others have done nothing, neither will these guys. I agree with Amit that demolishing the slums is the right thing to do only if it is accompanied by other measures (even though the slums were illegal, and thus a criminal act, by themselves). Why second-guess what the government is going to do? Or have you already decided what conclusion you want to arrive at, irrespective of the truth?

Monish

Anonymous said...

Dilip D'Souza: You wrote - "I think one part of the answer has to be an effort to stimulate opportunity in rural areas."

That is a profound way to say nothing. Instead of making vague general statements, will you please shed some light on what concrete policy measures you would suggest to resolve the problems that exist?

In all your posts, I have noticed that you are very quick to criticise other people's solutions, but you never offer any of your own. So you say the slums should not be demolished. Ok. What should be done then? Don't give us general blather about generating employment and providing housing, come up with some concrete solutions please.

Can you do that?

Monish

Anonymous said...

read this also alongwith this post. DD has no response to this.

http://ravikiran.com/archives/000282.htm

Dilip D'Souza said...

> come up with some concrete
> solutions please.
> Can you do that?

I have. Not just me, plenty of others have.

Anonymous said...

> come up with some concrete
> solutions please.
> Can you do that?

I have. Not just me, plenty of others have.
Really? And I suppose they are not for your blog readers, are they? Wonder why. Is it because we'd spot the holes in them right away?

Or maybe you have only problems, and no solutions.

And by the way, you still haven't answered the points that Ravikiran raised here. Why so? You prefer rants to discussion, is it?

Monish

Anonymous said...

I think anyone who has followed Amit's great coverage of the aftermath of the tsunami, or has followed his cricket journalism before that, will not make uninformed remarks about shots at fame.Yep. I followed all that, and that's why I was disappointed by what he did afterwards. He knows it too. Check his own blogg.

I'm sure even Dilip D'Souza, who has seen his amazing journalism first-hand, would agree with that.I am sure he would. After all, DD exposed the guy's sneaky doings.

It is silly to judge this government by the efforts of previous governments, or assume that because others have done nothing, neither will these guys.Oh I see. See, I distrust the Left to do anything about removing poverty. Why? because the efforts of their past govts have done nothing about it. Simple.

Like that, govts in Maharashtra have done demolishing for decades, but done nothing else. I don't see any reason to believe that this govt will suddenly do something else to address the issue of slums. Demolishing is the easy thing, and it also gets guys like you all excited.

Jai.

I agree with Amit that demolishing the slums is the right thing to do only if it is accompanied by other measures (even though the slums were illegal, and thus a criminal act, by themselves). Why second-guess what the government is going to do? Or have you already decided what conclusion you want to arrive at, irrespective of the truth?

Anonymous said...

Oops! My bad. Sorry about not deleting last para in last comment.

Jai P

Dilip D'Souza said...

Jai, I have great respect for Amit Varma's journalism. So please take your snide remarks somewhere else, OK? I'm not interested.

But anyway, I put up this post to ask who might want to go to some of the areas where slums have been demolished. I'm a little startled that nobody has taken up that offer. It's still open.

amit varma said...

Thanks, Dilip (and Monish). Btw, Dilip, I did volunteer to come with you a few comments up. And Jai, you're welcome to come as well, and I'm sure Dilip will agree. C'mon dude, don't get personal in your comments. Maybe we should meet up, and I'm sure you'll feel a lot better about me. I don't think Dilip and I, who disagree on so many things (mainly economics), would be friends today if we hadn't actually met in person.

Also, as regards your comment about not trusting the left, I don't trust the left either (as Dilip would sorrowfully endorse!). But that's hardly relevant to the slum demolitions in Mumbai, because last I checked, the left has no presence in the Maharashtra government.

doles said...

Honestly! It is my second day at this pheonomenon of "blogging" - Boy! Am I enjoying it! I see that all of us are so full of ideas - some creative and some destructive (! :-) ).

On another note. Looks like it is pretty harmless (and, appears to be, fruitless) to provide socio-economic solutions of real life problems on a weblog! So, here are my two cents:

I feel that the critical problem in our great nation (yeah - I am one of the "IT guys" living in US - though I hail from amchi mumbai) is the lack of respect or appreciation for policy and central planning. And really, one cannot clap with one hand - I have to say that governments and popular polity is also equally responsible for this as is the general public. To give an example of what I mean - lets consider the simple situation of civil and criminal law. That is one policy whose objectives and statements are clearest in words and action. However, neither public nor lawmakers ever abide by it. There is a general apathy towards law and in some corners of society there is pride in being out of reach of the long arm of law.

If you seek, you should be able to lay your hands on many such examples of lack of respect or appreciation for central planning or policy. I guess what I am saying is that slums or any such societal problem could be addressed through the brief but important points of intersection between personal life and government.

Keep writing folks.