A team of researchers is working in some of Mumbai’s most densely populated slums to understand what drives these informal settlements, how they sustain and how can they be improved. The research project, initiated by the Tata Centre for Development at the University of Chicago and International Innovation Corps, began in 2016 and has seven research sites in the city. At the helm of the project is principal investigator Prof. Anup Malani, Lee and Brena Freeman Professor of Law, University of Chicago, Law School, who was in Mumbai to visit the research sites. The Hindu spoke to him to know more about his findings and solutions to the problem.
What is the aim of this project?
We want to try to understand the economics of slums, or more precisely, understand how slums form, how they function and how to improve the livelihoods of people in slums. I am a trained economist and lawyer. Slums have a little bit of both problems. These are people living illegally so there is a legal component to the problem and there is an economic component because there is an important element of poverty involved in slums. We want to understand the dynamics that drive slums so that we can come up with better solutions.
What is the methodology of your research and which slums are you working in?
The methodology we use is interdisciplinary. We do ethnographic research, which involves field interviews of residents, politicians, landowners and other stakeholders. Along with this, we are carrying out quantitative work, which includes surveys of households, understanding their income, utilities, etc. We also do a lot of imagery with the help of drones and satellites to understand the geography and how the slums have grown. We combine all of this to paint a picture of emergence, sustenance and ultimately improvement of slums.
Our project has been on for more than two years in Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar, Delhi and Jaipur. We have recently added Hubli. In Mumbai, we have six sites where we are carrying out ethnographic research, including Kherwadi (Behrampada and Garib Nagar) in Bandra, Ambojwadi in Malad, Nehru Nagar in Juhu, Kaula Bunder in Reay Road, Milind Nagar in Powai and Sarvodaya Nagar in Bhandup. We are carrying out quantitative research at Mandala in Mankhurd.
Internationally, we are trying to understand if the dynamics that we are seeing in India are peculiar to India or similar to informal settlements in Nairobi, Rio, Sao Paulo, Manila, etc.
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