The making of a new ghetto, and other urban news

  • The Hindu carried a full page report today on the conditions at the resettlement colony of Kannagi Nagar, where 15,656 houses have been built for relocating slum dwellers from the center of the city. Residents, many of whom were moved here after the tsunami, have failed to get basic services like electricity, running water, trash collection, access to buses, schools, or affordable healthcare. Frighteningly, more than 3,000 houses lie vacant, and have become “dens for anti-social elements and their illegal activities.” Sigh…. When will Indian cities start learning from history in their policies towards the urban poor?
  • Perhaps it was the phenomenal success of Slumdog Millionaire, but it seems like the media has taken a more active interest in the slums recently. A new reality show on UTV called “The Big Switch” has rich residents – the son of a builder, a former Miss World – switching places with slumdwellers. I was hoping that the rich people would actually live in the slums and be forced to shit on railroad tracks at 4 in the morning, but apparently they’re just living in a dorm room with “contrived squalor,” no air conditioning, lots of mosquitoes, and squat toilets (presumably with ample water). I haven’t seen the show yet, but I find the fact that the rich residents live in a manufactured slum house rather than a real one absolutely in line with the blinders a lot of people here wear towards the conditions in which poorer urban residents live.
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