World’s largest slum being counted in Mumbai

MUMBAI: Sumit Kulkarni puts on a surgical mask before entering the sprawling Annabhau Sathe Nagar slum in Mankhurd along with his team, equipped with wi-fi enabled tablets and high-resolution cameras, on a sultry afternoon recently.

In a maze of narrow passages filled with nauseating odour, gutter water and muck flow through the tightly packed shanties. But Kulkarni and his young colleagues trudge along, knocking on every tin shed door, speaking to residents and seeking information.

They are part of, what state government officials describe as probably the biggest on-going slum survey in the world. Since January, surveyors led by project managers like Kulkarni have fanned out across the city’s slum enclaves and numbered with paint 71,512 hutments and completed a bio-metric survey of people living in over 45,000 shanties.

The extensive survey is to establish the eligibility of slumdwellers when their enclaves are taken up for redevelopment by private builders.

Last year, the state government decided to identify and record seven lakh such structures in 3,288 slum clusters spread over 9,000 acres in Greater Mumbai. In the first phase, the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) has been assigned the task to identify 2.17 lakh slums.

Three private firms were appointed to carry out the survey-Mumbai-based Innowave IT Infrastructure, Maha Online (joint venture between the state government and TCS) and Gujarat-based nCode Solution. SRA statistics show there are 65.29 lakh slumdwellers of which the largest chunk of 30.65 lakh are in the western suburbs between Bandra and Dahisar.

In the Mankhurd slum, a young surveyor wearing a smart blue SRA jacket records a local resident’s statement on camera: “I, Murad Sheikh, confirm that the documents I have submitted are true. If found to be bogus, I can be prosecuted.” The details of every hut is uploaded in real time from the tablets to the master server.

The task is onerous but the progress is painfully slow. SRA officials told this newspaper that in many slum pockets, the surveyors are not allowed to enter. In Deonar, for instance, the staff has been threatened, abused and even assaulted, sometimes in the presence of police escorts. “It’s been a complete no-go area for us,” said Kulkarni.

Anand Manwar, a supervisor, said his team has not been able to carry out even a preliminary recce in Deonar, where there are over 80,000 hutments close to the notorious garbage dumping ground.

Credits ET Realty

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