Thursday, March 17, 2005

Aasif Sartaj, from Squatter Colony, writes in

My friend Aasif Sartaj, who just turned 21, lives in Squatter Colony, a community not far from the railroad tracks in Malad (E) in Mumbai. His father built a bamboo and reed hut there in the 1960s, and has slowly transformed it into a sturdy two-story poured concrete townhouse. Every house in the community now has water and electricity and toilets.

Aasif's thoughts on his city's recent experiment with demolition of squatter communities in its attempt to remake itself as a South Asian Shanghai should be read by every politico in the city. He feels that the politicians have created a false dichotomy. To Aasif, Mumbai can modernize with it's squatters instead of driving them from their homes.

"I think Mumbai/Bombay should make its own recognition. It is obviously one of the most rapid improving cities worldwide. I believe Mumbai should be modernised and they should remove poverty, but not poor people, as some of the corrupted political leaders try to do. Poor people can't afford the maintainence and all the expenses that come along with flats and big plots, so they sell it and get shifted to the chawls or huts again. So there should be some planning or strategy which will help the poor guys to survive. To me, [the large] population is a weakness of India, but it can act as a benefit if they utilise the amazing manpower they have. The only reason why India has been backward is the lack of literacy and proper feedback given by right people, there are still some remote areas where people still don't have electricity and they are still 100 years behind time so we need to hold their hands to get advanced."

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