MUMBAI/ Reordering the old city 2 – Between the ideal and the reality

Reordering the old city 2

Ambiguity and Flaws of the Trust – Between the ideal and the reality (1900-1920) 

A primary objective of the trust in its first decade is the slum clearance and the provision of sanitary housing. The ambiguity of planning and the flawed method has resulted in a contradiction between intended aims and eventual outcome. In the name of regenerating order in the old city, the trust was criticized for worsening the overcrowding housing condition and worsening the life of the poor.

In the areas that suffered severely in the plague such as which were inhabited mostly by the working classes. The trust took a firm stance to wipe out the existing urban fabrics as they believed that“ … such a condition that no permanent improvement is possible without the rearrangement and reconstruction of the whole quarter.” The trust, however, did not have a clear agenda of how to settle the original residents of the slums. As mentioned in an Indian newspaper, “several houses were pulled down daily no decent accommodation was being provided for the unfortunate people who have much to suffer from cold for want of good and dry house to live in.” In the first slum clearance in Nagpada, more than 8000 people went homeless after the displacement. Without considering “rehousing” after “dehousing”, the Trust was condemned by the Bombay Rateprayer’s Association and Municap Corporation.

After the Nagpada clearance, the trust started to bundled slum clearance with the provision of tenenment blocks for the de- housed to ease the settlement debate. However, their settlement approach was not well accepted by the public. It is argued that the method was not helping, but further jeopardizing the displaced residents.

In the Mandvi Koliwada clearance, the trust initially promised to provide alternate sites close to their original neighborhood and would lease the new building plots to the original residents. As the clearance proceeded, the trustee came to the conclusion that “it would be a mistake for us to encourage them to remain where they are and the most we need to do is to endeavor to provide temporary accommodation for them when they are displaced pending their establishing themselves somewhere else” While the Trust planned to change the composition of the community permanently, they settled old tenants in temporary shed of corrugated iron, leaving them with unknown destinations. (BIT proceedings, 1905)

A declaration of trustee AsIbrahim Rahimtoola in legislative council 1912,

“The sanitary accommodation we have provided fro fifteen thousand people has not been wholly occupied by the people who were displaced by our schemes. I might go further and say that not even a very large number of these people have come forward to occupy these chawls in spite of our earnest desire to offer all sorts of facilities. For reasons we are unable to ascertain we find it difficult to fill the chawls with people whom we have displaced” ( Legislative Council Proceedings, 1912)

 Regarding the absurdity of the settlement plan, it was indeed an expected outcome for the trust to lost links with displaced tenants. They were reluctant to move into the trust’s house in fear of a second relocation in short future. Majority of the displaced tenant would rather use their social connection to settle in nearby neighborhoods that are claimed “sanitary”. Dwelling in these sanitary area were forced to increase in stories in order to accommodate the flushed in population. The unexpected outcome would be the deterioration of originally healthy city fabric and the spreading of overcrowding problem.

Kidambi, Prashant. The Making of an Indian Metropolis: Colonial Governance and Public Culture in Bombay, 1890-1920. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2007.

Rao, Nikhil. House, but No Garden: Apartment Living in Bombay’s Suburbs, 1898-1964.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.