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Gautam Adani’s Ambitious Vision for Dharavi: Transforming Asia’s Largest Slum into a Modern City Hub

Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slums, located in the heart of Mumbai, has long been a focal point for discussions on urban development and improving living conditions for its 1 million residents.

Historical Background

  • Origins of Dharavi: In the late 1800s, Dharavi was home to potters, leather tanners, artisans, and embroidery workers who established trade and businesses in the region. Over time, slum dwellers settled here, constructing huts in an unplanned manner.
  • Government Initiatives: Recognizing the need to improve living conditions, the Maharashtra government passed a law in 1971 to provide basic amenities like taps, toilets, and electrical connections to urban slum dwellers.
  • Redevelopment Plans: The idea of redeveloping Dharavi was first proposed in the 1980s as a means to utilize valuable land and offer proper housing to its residents.

The Path to Redevelopment

  • Slum Rehabilitation Authority: In 2004, the Maharashtra government established the Slum Rehabilitation Authority and approved the redevelopment of Dharavi.
  • Population Growth: A 2007 survey reported around 47,000 legal residents and 13,000 commercial structures in Dharavi, excluding those living on upper floors. However, the informal population continued to grow.
  • Bidding Process: In 2018, the Maharashtra government issued a tender for the redevelopment of Dharavi, with a proposed 20% government and 80% private ownership arrangement. Notable bidders included SecLink consortium and the Adani Group.
  • SecLink’s Initial Bid: In 2019, SecLink won the auction with a highest bid of $871 million, while Adani came second with a $548 million bid.
  • Tender Cancellation: In 2020, the Maharashtra government canceled the tender, citing changes in land acquisition costs. SecLink sued the government, alleging an incorrect cancellation.
  • Adani’s Triumph: Subsequently, a new tender was issued with modified terms, and in this round, Adani Group secured the project with a winning bid of $618 million.

Recent Developments and Controversy

  • SecLink’s Lawsuit: Following Adani Group’s victory, SecLink added Adani Group to its lawsuit against the state government, alleging wrongdoing.
  • Legal Battle: Both Adani and the state government contested allegations of wrongdoing in court filings.
  • Adani’s Vision: Gautam Adani expressed his commitment to transforming Dharavi into a modern city hub. He plans to support small industries, create new job opportunities, especially for young people and women, and establish training and research centers.
  • Digital Commerce Marketplace: Adani envisions an organized marketplace in line with India’s Open Network for Digital Commerce to be part of the redevelopment plan.

Redevelopment Plan and Challenges

  • Eligibility Criteria: Under the redevelopment plan, only residents who lived in Dharavi before 2000, primarily those on the ground floor, are eligible for free homes.
  • Challenges for Upper Floor Residents: Approximately 700,000 inhabitants on mezzanine and upper floors are considered ineligible. They may be offered units up to 10 kilometers away, potentially requiring upfront costs or higher rents.

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