Mumbai Slum Life

Mumbai Slums- a view from the top

Mumbai Slum Life

Mumbai is a city of stark contrasts. On one hand, there are luxurious hotels and sky-rises dotting the Mumbai skyline, while on the other, the city’s lands are brimming with over-crowded slums. According to the 2001 Census, 54% of Mumbai’s population lives in slums. Mumbai suffers from widespread poverty and unemployment, poor public health and sanitation and low educational standards. But when all the problems are squeezed into a few acres of makeshift settlements, the issues become glaringly obvious.

Some people might say, slums are just the nature of Mumbai. The grittiness of Mumbai is a part of Mumbai’s image of being the ‘City of Dreams.’ Because of uncontrolled migration due to various reasons, the development of slums and other similar housing areas is almost a natural response. Due to lack of infrastructure and planning in cities, combined with unchecked land prices and unaffordable housing, the poor are forced to search for informal solutions resulting in mushrooming of slums.

The slums of Mumbai themselves are a picture of contrasts. There are government recognized or notified slums, as well as non-notified slums. While the conditions in both kinds are noticeably poor, the non-notified slums are at the bottom of the barrel. Notified slums tend to receive some levels of government provided services but the same cannot be said for non-notified slums.


The basic amenities required to maintain a certain standard of living are available in some slums of the city, while others are seen to be severely lacking. Tap water for example. On an average, 52 people share one tap in slums. They are a source of safe drinking water and the shortage of it shows the substandard condition of slums. Lack of access to safe drinking water can cause diseases. For children, when diseases are combined with poor nutrition, it leads to higher infant mortality rates.

Take for example, the non-notified Kaula Bandar slums in south Mumbai. Based on a comparison of data from a 2010 survey of 811 children in Kaula Bandar with India’s National Family Health Survey, the infant mortality rate in Kaula Bandar is more than twice that of others. On an average the infant mortality rate in notified Mumbai slums is 30% higher than that of Mumbai’s formally housed population.

Slum roofs connected with electrical wires and dotted with Dish Antennas

Electricity connection
Some wards reported only small percentage of households not having electricity facility, eg. Parel (2.93%), This suggests that more than 90% of the slum households use electricity. Whereas some other slum areas (Bandra, Kurla, Chembur) reported more than 90% households with no electricity This shows that these slums are worse in case of accessibility to electricity.

Broken Sewerage Pipe in a Mumbai slum

Toilet facility
Toilets are a basic representation of hygiene and sanitation in human life. The average number households with private toilets is about 1.05%. Others have community toilets shared by many households. Slums in Colaba, Sandhurst Rd., Matunga, Dadar, Khar, Santacruz, Parel, Elphinstone Rd., Andheri (E), Andheri (W), Goregaon, Malad, Borivali, Kurla, Chembur (E), Ghatkopar and Mulund area reported hundred percent community toilets. It means that the sanitation level of these slums is moderately improved as compared with slums with open surface drains.

More often than not, these slums are situated near open drains which leads to diseases and unsanitary conditions. It provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes and insects and spreads diseases during the monsoon season.

Class in session at a Municipal School in Mumbai

Majority of the older generation over the age of 50 have no formal education, whilst the middleaged slum dwellers had completed primary school education and the majority of children attend the nearest Municipal school that offers free schooling. The overall literacy rate as found in base line surveys in slums is 60 per cent (MMRDA, 2002) which is lower than the city average.


Employment opportunities are limited to construction or manual based works or self-employment. The base-line surveys of 16,000 households for (MMRDA, 2002) Mumbai Urban Transport Project showed that 33 per cent of the population is working out of which 30 per cent of workers were self-employed, 44 per cent were working in private establishments, 9 per cent were in government service and only 17 per cent were casual workers. Employment conditions have significantly improved in some areas due to the interventions of NGOs, Self-Help Groups and other such organizations.

The problem of growing slums needs to be tackled despite the positive energies in slums that is being generated with the help of organizations. The situation can easily turn (it hasn’t already) to violence, strife and crime. Although there are a lot of policies and projects in place for rehabilitation and redevelopment of slums, as well as to improve the conditions in these areas, the problem of slums seems to be an ever-growing one. These issues warrant immediate action on parts of all stakeholders involved.


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