Headline July 16, 2015/ COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU : ''' SLUM BY SLUM "'



WHERE Mariam, Rabo, Dee, Aqsa, Hussain, Ali, Haleema, Anum, Faizan, Haider, live. Where I abode and abide, where Nina, Ghazi, Omer, Qasim  live, a shack by slum is just a trickle away.

In Karachi, I frequented all the slums. Twice even thrice a week, to suffer, share and sharpen my understanding of that world. But that was some years ago, when I lived there.

His Highness, Prince Karim Agha Khan, and his many organisations do splendid bit of work in just about the whole of the province of Sindh, Pakistan.

In and around Rawalpindi and Islamabad, I have upped my frequency. At times spending the best part of the daylight, with the discarded, the forgotten The research, the well documented one, shows the bitter motto of slums: "In No One We Trust."  

Same story in Mumbai, Karachi, Kibera, Cairo, Beirut, Bangkok, Manila, Kathmandu, Decca, Shanghai, Kabul, Moscow, Alexandria, Prague, Budapest, or Ankara, wherever and whenever, and on and on and on.

Why does the government not bulldoze Kibera, and re-house everyone multi-storeyed flats on the same site?.............Oh, that would be very complicated, the questioner is told. The difficulties abound, apparently, and they are not all financial.

The real reason is that lots of people make lots of money from the slums, providing the services the state does not provide and extracting the bribes that anyone living in an illegal city has to pay just to survive. Moreover, the slums provide the cheap labour that enables the city to operate. The status quo suits the authorities quite nicely.

The people of Kibera are increasingly organised, and increasingly determined to be involved in any plans to spruce up their slum. In this they are typical of their counterparts elsewhere.

But  in other respects, do Africa's new cities slums and slum dwellers resemble those in other continents?  An ocean away. Mumbai offers plenty of parallels.

Between 16m to 22m people live in Mumbai, according to where you draw the city limits, maybe half of them in slums. That as about the same proportion as in Nairobi. But as drive in from the airport or along P.D'Mello Road by the port, you quickly see that those slums are classy.

Many of the shacks on the pavements are double-decked, and beds, chairs, goats, and children spill on to the street, where head-carriers-porters with straight backs  -wash themselves from buckets.

The peninsula of modern Mumbai was, 350 years ago, seven islands, which have gradually been joined and expanded by landfills to make up 65 square kilometres of land shaped a bit like chilli pepper. The city is hot in every sense but, more seriously it is crowded, and room for expansion is limited.

Until 64 odd  years ago, new comers to Mumbai tended to settle just outside, at Dharavi, where no rules applied and so sheep could be slaughtered and hides tanned. Over the years ever more people came and squatted, and the city, India's financial and commercial capital, expanded.

Today, much over 700,000 people live in Dharavi's 230 hectares, which now lie in the heart of Mumbai. Dharavi's boast is it is the biggest slum in Asia.

Conditions here are similar to Kibera's miserable housing, no security of tenure, contaminated water for the 40% lucky enough to have it piped, mud for four months out of 12, bribes needed for a blind eye to be turned to an illegal electricity connection, one lavatory for 800 people, the stink and pungency of sewage, and so on and on and on.

People come here for familiar reasons, too. Life is grindingly hard for many rural Indians. Agriculture has recently been growing at 2% a year, while the economy as a whole booms near 8%. Crops fail, and many farmers are so deeply in debt that they are little more than bonded labourers.

Suicide is common: in just one region of Maharashtra, the state of which Mumbai is the capital, 1,450 farmers killed themselves only recently. In particular, many dalits, members of the lowest Hindu caste, see no hope of betterment amid the harsh conservatism of rural India.

Their only hope is move to the cities, it is an echo of what happened in Medieval Europe, when moving to a city was for many an escape from serfdom 

Stadtluft macht frei [ City air sets you free], said the Germans.

Life may indeed be a bit easier in a city. Jocun Arputham, who has lived in Mumbai's slums since 1963, when he was 16, makes Dharavi sound almost romantic. "You don't have to work very hard to make a living," he says.

"You can collect and sell garbage. you can always ask people for food, and to sleep somewhere." He made his bed on someone's  verandah for 12 years. Then he founded an organisation for the inhabitants of India's slums. Now he is the head of the international federation of shack and slum dwellers.

The sadness, but the Honour and Serving of the "Environmental Operational Research"  continues. Thank you for reading maybe,  learning something.

With most respectful dedication to the  "Shack-And Slum- Dwellers"  the world over by over. See Ya all on !WOW!   -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

"' Even Diogenes Would Despair "'

'''Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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