Invading Spaces Of The Poor
By Vidyadhar Date
18 October, 2006
Smith, distinguished professor at the City University of New York, has
spent several years studying gentrification, the process of grabbing
urban areas of the poor and turning them into posh localities. Yet,
he was overwhelmed by the scale of gentrification going on in the textile
mill and other areas in Mumbai which he visited last week.
Thousands of textile workers
in Mumbai are now being evicted from central parts of the city with
the closure of the mills and the rich taking over their spaces which
are highly coveted by the property market.
Cities like Mumbai, Sao
Paulo, Mexico city and Shanghai are now at the cutting age of urban
change. The gentrification in the US and Europe is nothing compared
to what is happening in Mumbai and China, Mr Smith said in an interview
with this writer.
In China the scale of gentrification
was colossal. In one project called 365 no less than 27 million sq metres
of land was being developed after displacing 640,000 people.
He noted that apart from
the textile mill lands , it was now proposed to develop hundreds of
acres of lands of the Mumbai Port Trust, Dharavi, Asia's largest slum,
and the Bandra Kurla complex. We researchers did not have ears to the
ground and had not noticed the phenomenon earlier. But now a whole book
with a title like Learning from Mumbai can be written, he said.
The process of gentrification
began in the 1950s on a small scale and noticed in only a few cities
like London, New York, Paris and Sydney. It is now virtually global.
It has ranged from Tokyo to Sao Paulo, Mexico, Cape Town, Shanghai,
Mumbai and Seoul.
A feature of all this development
involved disposessing the poor to promote accumulation of capital in
pursuit of more and more profits. The ordinary people, the victims of
the development, are not even mentioned in a document on real estate
development in Mumbai prepared by an American real estate agency.
Mr Smith,author of the acclaimed
book The New Urban Frontier, Gentrification and the New Revanchist City,said
the new development was accompanied by an attitude of revanchism , a
French word which means taking revenge , in this case it is revenge
against the poor.
In China the new development
was accompanied by supression of social movements. There were no fewer
than 74,000 public demonstrations against injustice in China in 2004.
In New York the police had
been given the infamous dum-dum bullets which were designed to do the
maximum bodily harm. It was revealed that betwen 1994-97 the city of
New York had paid a record $96.8 million to settle burgeoning number
of police-brutality lawsuits.
Real estate development
was now becoming central to the economy of cities. That is why there
is so much repression of protests against the gentrification process
in different parts of the world.
Mr Smith was in Mumbai to
participate in a seminar on the process of globalising cities involving
disposession of the poor and accumulation of capital organised by the
geography department of Mumbai university.
He said global finance was
investing in a big way in cities round the world on the assumption that
while other investments may fail, built property remains, it does not
Formerly the state in Europe
invested a lot in housing for the poor. Now the process was being reversed.
The poor were being disposessed of their assets.
Cities are now increasing
competing to attract investment. When the New York Stock Exchange threatened
to relocate , the then Mayor Giuliani announced a $ 900 million taxpayer
subsidy ostensibly to keep the stock exchange in the city. This was
part of a series of `geobribes' paid by the city to global corporations.
The Mayor had even talked of having a separate foreign policy for New
York, Mr Smith said.
Share Your Insights