Moreover, the annual property taxes for redeveloped projects are directly proportionate with the floor of the building people are placed on, forcing some to sell these houses and relocate – pushing them towards the living conditions they were trying to escape and taking away what actually helped them thrive: their community.
Then comes the question of legitimacy. Documentation is of high importance in this new economy of sturdy bureaucracy that the government is trying to create. The tender conditions proposed are based on dated and inaccurate surveys. They excluded those living on rent and those living on the upper floors. The ground-floor residents were only counted if they had documented proof of residence before the year 1995. ‘It is tough for us to have documentation and work in legitimate ways’, says Mohammed. His father settled on a small piece of land in Dharavi and passed it on to the next generation. Mohammed and his brothers built a three-storey building there to house their families. After displacing them for redevelopment, the SRA allotted one 225 sq ft apartment for the 3 families as only his father’s residence was documented through the bills in the past. They now divide this among them, using a curtain as a partition between their spaces. This 225 sq ft houses 12-15 people. This is one family’s situation that was part of one redevelopment project. The scale of the current one is much larger. Adani group will be confronted with a complex web of unique obstacles that bureaucratic procedures don’t necessarily account for. This is creating a looming presence of impending doom amongst people living in precarious realities.
In his statement, Gautam Adani calls it a ‘human-centric’ project. The anxieties and concerns of the humans on the ground oppose the rose-tinted picture he is creating of it. Despite this, there is unwavering faith in him delivering well. ‘If anyone can pull this off, it is Adani,’ says a beaming Suryakant, ‘his political and financial reach give us deep confidence in him’. ‘But why is no one asking us what we want?’, contends Mohammed with distressed eyes.
This project is “the world’s largest urban renewal scheme” according to SVR Srinivas, the CEO of the Dharavi Redevelopment Project, a government enterprise. It promises better futures without any clear information about how exactly. All of this raises vital questions – who is this development truly being done for? Is it for elite Mumbai, which likes the look of a clean city? Or for the developers, trying to make more money for themselves? What kind of a city are we trying to create? What is being lost?
‘I just want everyone to prosper, I just want everyone to be together and live in harmony, we rise and fall with each other,’ says old and wise Bhau, who has been living in Dharavi for decades. Every conversation has ended with people being proud of where they come from, and the brotherhood that they share. The identity and fate of the people and their place is an entangled hodgepodge of processes that rely heavily on each other, so much so that you can barely tell whether it is the people building the place or the place building the people.