Dharavi-The Heart of Mumbai
What comes to mind when you hear someone saying, "I am from Dharavi". Drugs, highest ever crime rates, poverty? This article is based on clearing out the same fallacious misconceptions and how Dharavi is so much better in so many concepts to juxtapose the other parts of India.
I recently devoted half a day to go around Dharavi and understand their way of living. As we walked around, we saw Hindus, Christians, Sikhs,Muslims all living together in perfect harmony with no biases involved. It was just astonishing to see how the people rose up from the trifles arising from religious and scrupulous matters and developed this deep connection among themselves. It was indeed an ecosystem(Dharavi) inside an ecosystem(Mumbai).
The revenue generated by the 5,000 companies stationed in Dharavi accounts to a Billion US dollars. People in Dharavi don't think about their futures. All they care about is earning enough for a good meal. These people are the true meaning of a Hand to Mouth Life. The industries ranged from Aluminium/Plastic recycling, cardboard/paint can reuse, and different handmade items like suitcases and other machinery. I saw amazing leather bags and suitcases being made which, through a middle man, would go to the major companies, get re-branded and be sold after more than a 4000% increase in price, I'll talk about the solutions to the problems involved later in the chapter.
Dharavi is also home to one of the biggest residential slum areas. I saw, in first person, how cramped up the space for the people to live in actually was. The prices for the rent of a nominal space would often be much higher if you proportioned it to the more spaced out parts of Mumbai.Regardless of all this, people here work hard, stay content with what they earn, and live a happy life filled with gratitude for all the things they have. It is indeed a very closely knit community of people.
When we started our tour, it almost immediately became obvious that one of the biggest problems here was the unclean habitat and it was difficult to even walk in the small streets, especially in the rain. other than this, corruption played a very important role in the industries because very often, due to the hazardous working environments, the workers have to go through the middle man to reach large commercial companies who can eat up a lot of money.
If we want to strategically eliminate the middleman, this can be done by shifting the workers working in the small warehouses into bigger ones where 2 or 3 companies can work together in the same space. This will in-turn create accessibility for the company officials to come straight to the source of their products.
Another Problem in Dharavi is that many workers' families live far away and they often have to transfer money to them. Since they are not accustomed to net banking or online options and are scared of losing their money, they go through agents for this process which can take up to 2% for this deed. If we educate the people on how their financial problems can be solved, it will surely prove to be a boon for them.
People have been living in Dharavi for almost 4 generations and nobody would feel good if we invaded their work space even if it was for their own good. That's why before anyone embarks on an initiative for their betterment, we need to gain their trust.
I was guided on this tour by a company which goes by the name of Be the Local Tour Guides our guide, Mohammed Yahya(Arabic word meaning forever), is pursuing Business Management and is in his 4th year. He does a part-time job as a local tour guide to fund his education. Hats off to these people who are not held back by monetary terms and have the will to move on. The following video is about the same company and is indeed a must watch:
I hope you enjoyed my take on the wonderful Dharavi and I highly encourage you to devote half a day to this tour and have a look at Dharavi-From the inside.
Author - Tanay Nagar, recently visited Dharavi as part of his research Project. He is a grade 11 student at Dhirubhai Ambani International School.