Academic journal article Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management

People's Voices in Democratizing Cities: A Case of Mumbai

Academic journal article Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management

People's Voices in Democratizing Cities: A Case of Mumbai

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

It has been said that one of the greatest challenge in the 21st century will be of slums. UN-Habitat (2003) report warns about devastating impacts of "urbanization of poverty" and it must be squarely dealt to maintain balance of cities. Urbanization led by the industrialization in third world country might be relatively a new phenomenon, though India has experienced trade and urbanization during Harappa and Buddhist period before fifth century B.C (Mears, 2001). There were several marked differences in the urbanization process of advanced industrial nations and third world countries (Kasarda and Crenshaw, 1991). In India, in order to attract global capital, cities are being upgraded at the cost of sidelining the countryside and urban poor. The new income and job opportunities are located in cities. Thus, in developing countries where cities are largely perceived as engines of growth, are the destinations not only for the rich but also the poor have been heavily migrating to cities.

India has much to learn from its own historical past and western experiences to ascertain the democratic principles in the city civic life. Alexis de Tocqueville had warned that racial inequality as the most formidable evil threatening the future of the democracies like United States and racial disparities would bring disaster in societies (Polikoff, 2006). Unlike India, countries like USA took proactive actions to promote racial sensitive policies especially after the Gautreaux case to implement the racially inclusion housing neighborhoods in order to eradicate the ghettos. The governments' section VIII programs provide equal housing opportunities to African Americans and other minorities. Advocacy and demands for inclusive housing put forth by National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) were recognized by the mainstream civil society groups and US government. Besides this examples like Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) marked a seminal work which attracted international attention through their model of developing minority leadership and promoting racially inclusive participation in American communities (Warren, 2001).

In India though the level of urbanization is positively correlated to the levels of development, India's urbanization story is marked by inequalities. There are highly urbanized areas and highly backward areas in India. Thus, the process of urbanization, therefore, has not been healthy and has failed to promote balanced regional development in the country (Kundu, Bagchi, and Kundu 1999). Similarly the caste based hierarchy, communal divides, and political interests also acts as important factors in characterizing urban settlements and regional disparities (Chandhoke, 1993). Appadurai (2001) highlights the politics of xenophobic party Shivsena playing a communal religious card to evict Muslim slum dwellers. It is important to note that most of the urban poor in India are from the lower castes and the untouchable communities of Indian society (Deshpande, 2003). Around 3000 years old Hindu caste system(see Appendix Table 1) and untouchability practices still reflects staggering rate of atrocities against Dalits(untouchables) (1) in rural and urban India (Deshpande, 2000; National Crime Record Bureau, 2005). Chief Architect of Indian Constitution Dr. Ambedkar envisioned greater democratic vision in the urbanization process and eradication of social inequalities. Unlike Mohandas Gandhi, Dr.Ambedkar advocated for greater urbanization and said " What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow- mindedness and communalism? I am glad that the Draft Constitution has discarded the village and adopted the individual as a unit" (Hay, 1988).

2. Empowerment through Civil Society: A Case of Mumbai

Mumbai is known to be a magnet city that attracts both rich and poor across castes and religion. …

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