How is life in Mumbai

"Living and working in the slum" - that was the general theme of an excursion that took three teachers and 21 students from the institutes of Sociology, Foreign Language Philology (English Studies) and Political Science of the Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education to Mumbai / India in February 2004 .

Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is characterized by its geographical location on a peninsula by spatial scarcity. During the colonial days, Mumbai grew into an industrial city that was restructured into a service center in the course of globalization.Today, with around 18 million people, Mumbai is one of the world's megacities and is the economic metropolis of India - a magnet for many rural people who migrate to the city and hope for better living conditions there.

Population explosion

A policy that had been unsuccessful for years could not keep pace with the population explosion in terms of infrastructural development and housing construction. Almost 50 percent of the population in Mumbai live on the streets or in illegal slums - erected on wasteland, for example along the railway lines, or on marshland that was drained by the settlers on their own initiative, but sinks again in the monsoon season. They only have eight percent of the urban living space available. There they built huts, while the city, with the support of the World Bank, undertook some infrastructural developments such as the construction of public toilets (one toilet for every 150 people) and shower facilities. Today, however, these public institutions are in a disastrous state. The social structure of this section of the population shows that this is not just a class of uneducated people, but that many people leave their slum huts in the morning and go to work in the "city".

Constant uncertainty

Not only life in these often miserable circumstances, but also life in constant uncertainty weighs heavily on people. Here, insecurity does not only mean material livelihood - many people work in the so-called informal sector as day laborers or do unhealthy and inhumane jobs - but the right to stay. Very few of the numerous slum dwellers have property rights to land and housing and live under the constant fear that the slums will be cleared out of the public interest and that their homes will be destroyed. This applies in particular to those people who settled after 1995, while those who have lived there for a longer period at least have the right to resettlement. The desire to give one's own children a good education so that they will have better living conditions also weighs heavily on the parents.

Against this social background, the three institutes carried out various small-scale research with the partner institute for sociology of the University of Mumbai, which were examined from the perspective of the respective discipline. Topics were "(About) living and working in the slum" as well as the "Role of women in the family economy", "Spatial structure of slums with regard to ethnic and religious segregation", "Political organization in the slum" and "Artistic forms of expression in the slum ". The center of the research was" Dharavi ", Asia's largest slum with around one million inhabitants.

The actual three-week excursion was preceded by a one-semester preparation phase in which the students dealt with Indian culture, the topic of "slums" and the "informal sector" and the necessary travel preparations. The one-semester follow-up is currently starting: the processing of the research results and the creation of a final report, which is published within the faculty. In addition to aspects of getting to know a foreign culture, the focus of this excursion was on going through the entire research process with the students: from the research idea to the elaboration of hypotheses and the research instruments to field research and the elaboration of the research material. The excursion was partially financed by the German Academic Exchange Service and the individual institutes.
Dr. Heiko Schrader