The aspirations for the slum dwellers that came with setting up SPARC in the 1980's didn't materialize because the limitations of the municipality or government because of the DP (Development Plan). Carefully study of the plans indicated that there were spaces available to house the slum dwellers; in reality however the space or land was always used for different purposes and thus occupied. In frustration, SPARC raised this issue with the then Chief Secretary of Maharashtra who had also been the municipal commissioner of Mumbai. His comment on the development plan was (with a benignly smile) that the DP is a manifestation of what we envision, but reality is very different. In layman terms it translates to the urban poor can’t ask the city for land for housing because all the land that they have earmarked for the poor is already occupied.
The DP which is being prepared today is haunted by incorrectness of the past: lack of accurate data and unclear and contradictory data sets. When challenges to plan are not accommodated and addressed in each plan, they clearly produce unregulated response. The poor squat if they can’t find a space to stay near work; the elite equally ignore the rules. Both pay bribes for the regulatory process to ignore their presence and turn a blind eye, and the unregulated growth increases exponentially.
Manipulating the data is a routine strategy of the government agencies. The state and city institutions are known to inflate and deflate the data on poverty slums based on whom the report is being prepared for. The data used for preparing the Mumbai DP states that there is a 18% dip in slums; the information is quite vague is you consider the following facts: How do we link this to the fact that the census definition requires a slum cluster to have more than a certain number of dwelling to be counted under the census connect with this factor? What do we do when even lower level government data collection refuses to count the households who live as renters in the mezzanines of huts?