Historically, slums have grown in Bombay as a response to a growth of population far beyond the capacity of existing housing. Migrants are normally drawn to the city by the huge disparity between urban and rural income levels. Usually the residents of these densely populated enclaves live close to their place of work. The residential area itself does not provide employment.
Bombay knows another reason for the formation of slums. As the city grew, it took over land that was traditionally used for other purposes. The Koli fishermen were displaced during the development of the harbour and port. Those driven out of the fishing villages improvised living space that was often far shabbier than before. This process continues even now, at the end of the 20th century.
On the other hand, some villages were encysted by the city growing around them. Dharavi, originally a village with a small tanning industry, has become a slum in this fashion. Asia's largest slum, Dharavi, lies on prime property right in the middle of India's financial capital, Mumbai. It is home to more than a million people. Many are second-generation residents, whose parents moved in years ago.
Today's Dharavi bears no resemblance to the fishing village it once was. A city within a city, it is one unending stretch of narrow dirty lanes, open sewers and cramped huts. In a city where house rents are among the highest in the world, Dharavi provides a cheap and affordable option to those who move to Mumbai to earn their living. Rents here can be as low as 185 rupees per month. As Dharavi is located between Mumbai's two main suburban rail lines, most people find it convenient for work.
Even in the smallest of rooms, there is usually a cooking gas stove and continuous electricity. Many residents have a small color television with a cable connection that ensures they can catch up with their favourite soaps. Some of them even have a video player.
Dharavi also has a large number of thriving small-scale industries that produce embroidered garments, export quality leather goods, pottery and plastic. Most of these products are made in tiny manufacturing units spread across the slum and are sold in domestic as well as international markets.
The annual turnover of business here is estimated to be more than $650m a year.
The state government has plans to redevelop Dharavi and transform it into a modern township, complete with proper housing and shopping complexes, hospitals and schools. It is estimated that the project will cost $2.1bn