In the heart of Mumbai, lies Dharavi, India’s largest slum, where residents strive for progress amidst challenges. With cramped lanes and limited access to basic amenities, Dharavi reflects the stark realities of urban poverty. However, beneath the surface lies a vibrant community eager for change.

As election season approaches, Dharavi is flooded with promises of development, with re-development emerging as a key focus in recent years. However, as residents prepare to cast their votes, many feel that the search for development remains elusive.

“I started living in Dharavi after my marriage. It has been 25 years, and we are still struggling for essentials. I get up at 5 a.m. every morning to fill potable water available only for one hour every day. My husband and I travel 10 km every month to get basic healthcare. I am contemplating on voting in this election because we have not got anything apart from assurances,” said Anjali Kamble, a Dharavi resident.

Dharavi is home to over two lakh voters and is a part of the Mumbai South-Central constituency. The South-Central constituency consists of areas including Dharavi, Chembur, Sion Koliwada, Anushakti Nagar, Wadala and Mahim.

The voter’s profile in the area consists largely of scheduled castes and minorities. Residents state that the governments have failed to provide basic amenities to the people residing in the slums.

“No political party cares for what is happening in Dharavi. The promised redevelopment is yet to begin, and people are forced to live in unhygienic conditions,” said Ravi Jadhav a Dharavi resident. Jadhav works as a driver and has lived in the slums of Dharavi since childhood.

Redevelopment Promise

In 2004, the Maharashtra government announced the Dharavi redevelopment project promising to transform the lives of the slum residents and turn the area into a business centre. However, 20 years later the redevelopment work is yet to start.

“Voters residing in Dharavi are not from the upper caste and include minorities. They are fed up with the assurances and are against the BJP and Shinde Sena alliance. The Dharavi redevelopment has been pending since 2004 and no work on development has happened. All types of election gimmicks are being used just to get votes” says Raju Korde, social worker and president of Dharavi Redevelopment Committee (RDC).

Business Impact

Despite its challenges, Dharavi is a testament to the resilience and entrepreneurship and is home to a slew of manufacturing businesses. The area has a small-scale manufacturing industry for leather goods, garments, and pottery. Recycling of plastics is also carried out on a large scale in the area. Shop owners in Dharavi state that their businesses are not thriving.

“The leather business in Dharavi has drastically reduced after the increase in GST. Businesses have reduced up to 40 per cent in the last three years. We are worried if this continues the Dharavi leather industry will be in trouble. The business owners are also not very hopeful about the Dharavi redevelopment project because the business could be impacted more by the placement of shops. Presently all leather shops are located on the main road,” said Anil Khade whose family own the 1975 leather shop Rank in Dharavi.

“Dharavi residents want development. Those opposing the project are outsiders, not the real residents of the area. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is personally monitoring the project. The project requires various state and central approvals and people realise that the project will be implemented quickly with the Centre’s support,” said South Central MP Rahul Shewale.

(With inputs from Aneesh Phadnis)