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Friday, January 25, 2013

fire at Mahim slum... pathetic conditions of slum dwellers

In cities you find super rich, finding it newer avenues for exhibiting and spending their riches ~ alongside exist slums, where poor inhabit.  I think they are called ‘zhopadpattis or jhopadpattis’…  call it by whatever name, they are tenements of substandard housing where normally no one would like to live…

Slumdog Millionaire was a film and it would remain a mirage for those in slums to get anywhere near riches… with my little knowledge, I have seen slums in every Indian city I visited, but in Mumbai there were two tier slums… !!!   Living conditions have a direct impact on public health.  One of the problems faced by City administrators with  proliferation of slums in urban areas is the host of health hazards that they bring along in their wake.  The concept of slums and its definition vary from country to country depending upon the socio-economic conditions of society. The basic characteristics of slums are - dilapidated housing structures, poor ventilation, acute over-crowding, inadequate lighting, paucity of safe drinking water, water logging during rains, absence of toilet facilities and the like.  The legal definition  would differ from State to State.  ‘Slums’ have been defined under Section 3 of the Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956 as areas where buildings :- are in any respect unfit for human habitation; are by reason of dilapidation, overcrowding, faulty arrangement and design of such buildings, narrowness or faulty arrangement of streets, lack of ventilation, light, sanitation facilities or any combination of these factors which are detrimental to safety, health and morals.

Added to all these woes, many a times, slums go up on fire…. Today there are reports that around 3000 houses of slum dwellers in Mahim, Mumbai were gutted by a fire.  An India TV report says that the fire in the Naya Nagar slum locality, a densely located area housing several wood godowns, was first noticed between 4 am and 4.30 am. It is reported that 11 engines fought fire; cause of fire is not ascertained and no casualties have been reported so far.

The film Nayagan brought to fore the slum-dwellers of Dharavi and Varadharaja Mudaliar.  Understand that it was once  the largest slum in Mumbai; but as of now there are more slums larger than dharavi.   at one time, but as of 2011, there are four slums in Mumbai.  The slum in Mahim is perhaps one such ~  Mahim has a railway station too.  Mahim was one of the seven islands that originally made up Mumbai. Mahim, or Mahikawati as it was known, was the capital of Raja Bhimdev, who reigned over the region in the 13th century.

Slum fires are worst as they wipe out whatever little property that the dwellers have gathered in their lifetime.  They may not even have another dress to change.  Have been associated with an Organisation in Chennai known as Rajasthan Cosmo Club, who collect used clothes, mend them, clean and keep them packed according to size, looking as if they are new.  This Organisation springs to visit the slums affected by fire, offering clothes to the affected dwellers, which certainly is a great service.

On a different plane, there was this news in The Hindu that officials of Chennai Collectorate intervened in time to stop the marriage of a 16-year-old girl, after complaints from her neighbours.  The news item stated that was more of an exception as child  marriages are quite the norm in many of the city’s slums. 

Sad that people continue to suffer and this fire at Mahim would sure put the dwellers to more miserable conditions

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
25th Jan 2013.


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