Background and Purpose: Massive slum clearance and redevelopment efforts are underway in Mumbai to expand the city’s infrastructure and open space for commercial housing development. The stated aims of these efforts are to spur economic growth, solidify Mumbai’s place on the global stage as a “world-class city,” and to address the needs of care, protection, and security of the urban poor. Foundational to this restructuring is the demolition of many of the city’s informal settlements and the relocation of residents to newly built complexes in which they are provided legal tenure rights. Although much has been written about slum communities and the broad processes of urban restructuring policy in Mumbai, little research has been done on resident experiences and perceptions of the process of tenure formalization. What were the mechanisms by which these “slum-dwellers” were inducted into systems of formal tenure? Which sanctioned and unsanctioned methods did residents use to secure housing in the resettlement community? What government agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) did they engage with, and what were their evaluations of this engagement? How have the bureaucratic processes required to establish tenure affected the populations thus “formalized?”
Methods: Our investigation relied on a comparative case-study design focused on two different locations. The first, Lallubhai, is composed of residents originally from many different informal settlements throughout Mumbai. The second, Majas, was constructed for an intact community that was relocated as a group. Majas is also significantly closer to the community of origin compared to Lallubhai. In total, sixty semi-structured interviews were conducted, as well as seventeen focus groups. In addition, seven key informant interviews and focus groups were conducted with leaders of the organizations tasked with executing the slum resettlement scheme. Interviews were translated from the original Hindi, Marathi, and Urdu into English and transcribed by our research partners from the Tata Institute of Social Science in Mumbai. A set of thematic codes was then developed inductively and applied to the transcripts using NVivo qualitative analysis software.
Findings: Our analysis demonstrates that residents and their elected housing-cooperative leadership made use of networks of political patronage to successfully relocate into the new housing, relying on both the exchange of votes in order to receive necessary documentary evidence (such as ID cards) as well as more local networks of social relationships to acquire more desirable, individual flats. Our data indicate that engagement with both government agencies and NGOs was mediated significantly by these elected cooperative boards, and that the majority of residents had little understanding of, or engagement in, the resettlement process. The analysis also suggests that the complex array of organizational actors significantly complicated the relocation process, and that the interstices between these actors opened up significant opportunities for graft, embezzlement, and other forms of corruption.
Implications: Our findings indicate the importance of interorganizational cooperation and the education of all residents around bureaucratic procedures and guidelines. In providing this education and working to facilitate interorganizational cooperation, social workers can significantly assist in the effective implementation of large-scale policy initiatives.