On Reading Scholarly Papers and Mumbai’s Urban Renewal

Reading scholarly papers is not a hot subject among youth in India. By this, I mean that nobody reads these papers “for fun”. The idea of reading scholarly works for fun seems like a strange pass-time to have. This is one of my pass-times that I let pass under the broad category of reading. This is not something that I can share on goodreads.

Rating and reviewing scholarly papers is difficult compared to works of fiction. For one, scholarly papers are works of non-fiction. They are written more for a specific audience than for the general populace. I had a habit of reading scholarly papers in astronomy through Current Science, a publication of the Indian Academy of Sciences besides the Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Once I started working in Bharuch, this was a habit I could not carry on. I replaced it instead by watching videos on YouTube on my mobile phone or listening to podcasts.

Once back in Mumbai, I have now started reading the Economic & Political Weekly, published out of Mumbai. The May 4 edition of the Weekly has an interesting paper titled Caste and Gender in a Mumbai Resettlement Site [the paper will go behind a firewall in about 4 weeks]. The paper is by Varsha Ayyar at the School for Labour Studies in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The paper is principally concerning the role that gender and caste play in the rehabilitation of slums to a particular location in Lallubhai Compound, Mankhurd, Mumbai. People were moved to the spot around 2005 onwards from different parts of the city under several projects meant to improve conditions for Mumbaikars.

The relocation is still an ongoing process. Yet, the people who have been relocated have not been given basic amenities. Despite being able to plan where these people were to be re-located, this was not done. This also does not get coverage in the local media, much less national newspapers.

People from various localities of Mumbai and different castes were all put together in a close space without amenities and with poor infrastructure and were expected to exist here. Throughout the paper, there were allusions to slums being better than these buildings – 72 5 stories buildings. The poor infrastructure was a story in itself. Added to this were the dynamics of caste and religion which get hightened in such close quarters.

What is interesting in this paper is that mention is made of particular NGO which goes unnamed that has been working with the Compound, forming housing societies and what I understood to be self help groups which played a role in the power politics in the Compound through supporting certain castes over others. 

Do read the paper, which delves more into how caste and gender are shaped in the Compound caused by forced displacement. Also, found this interesting photographic work on the Lallubhai Compound on the web.

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