Tag Archives: Waste documentary

Update on Dharavi

MACORN India's Dharavi Project leadershipumbai Needing to drag our friend, Parasher, the Waste filmmaker along to provide footage for another documentary project, gave Vinod Shetty, ACORN India’s director in Mumbai, a good reason to visit with our leaders in Dharavi, get an update, and see what was new in Mumbai’s giant mega-slum.

Our leaders were enthusiastic.  The combination office, school, recycling and sorting center opened a year ago for ACORN International’s Dharavi Project and had established a presence for the ACORN Foundation of India has been popular and a huge success.  Materials were stacked up to the roof, and everyone was covetous of the new space added next door by the landlord and wishing that we had enough resources to expand.  Work was being done as we visited and compared to many of the spaces we visited it was small, but better ventilated and safer.

There was lots of news for the whole DharResorting work inside ACORN's Dharavi recycling centeravi slum as well, which for years has been on a death sentence for future development.  The municipal corporation has announced that it would not agree to the massive multi-billion dollar proposal by one developer, which had been fast tracked, but instead would redevelop by sections and do one at a time.  Practically speaking given organizing, politics, financing, and the innumerable other delays that might be won on each section, this could mean a 20 or 30 year developmental time frame rather than the 2 to 3 year phase out that the big businessmen, architects, and planners had proposed.  This is a gamechanger that will also require us to rethink our strategy.

This was hardly causing celebration.  The problems of relocation and proving residence and time lived in these informal housing squats still loomed ahead.  Only those with proof would be able to claim any assistance at this point and a slum like Dharavi is known for many things but paperwork, receipts, and dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s” are not high on that list.

Chand the Barber gets a sign from Artefacting sponsored by ACORN IndiaThe business of recycling for the city of Mumbai and many other livelihoods continues at fast and furious pace as we visited.  Many of the godowns, as they are called, being business people have already started acquiring alternate locations one and two hours away where they could acquire land outside of the Mumbai megacity, keeping one foot in Dharavi and another faraway.

We looked at what was left of the Artefacting project that ACORN India had hosted for several months with a group of artists, filmmakers, photographers and others.  There were some peculiar “beehives” on the top of some of the structures that were of interest, though I wasn’t sure if I got the artistic message.  The ones I did understand were the sign for the barber and some other trades people.  Something of value remained.

As we all walked about what stepped carefully between danger and amazement.  Going into the dust and fumes of small, unventilated spaces where a dozen workers were re-sorting plastics deftly tossing various items in more than a half-dozen tubs of different kinds and colors.  Watching metal and plastic grinding machines tended without masks or goggles or shoes or gloves is always sobering, speaking ofTraditional wood print textile designs still being made in Dharavi longer term death sentences as we were earlier.  Peek through another door and one is watching craftsmen with the deep dyes that seem lost in much of India moving from one rich garment to another.  Another 100 feet later and one sees several men practicing the ancient, traditional craft of textile and fabric design with wood blocks.

Dharavi contradicts almost everything that people imagine about a slum as they miss the connection between livelihoods and habitat which are inseparable here.  If we are winning some time, maybe there’s still a chance that some of the best of Dharavi can still survive.

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Pink Underwear Campaign

chaddis pink underwear campaign

chaddis pink underwear campaign

Delhi       The fabrication of the Commonwealth Games continued. The headlines trumpeted six more gold medals and the 2nd place standing of India, while the stories continued to be nothing but mishap and misfortune due to poor organizing and faulty equipment, and literally no crowds at all. An automatic set of tire puncturing teeth didn’t read the electronic sticker and came up hurting 3 Ugandan dignitaries seriously. The courtesy driver fiasco continued for Tata Motors with the new spin being the fact they only got the contract signed in July, so it’s someone else’s fault of course. Wild speculation on why so few people are attending the games including the Times of India wondering if Delhi elites were so used to getting free passes that they were unwilling to pay to go to the game. Solution: the Delhi Municipal Corporation asked the Organizing Committee for free passes for school children and others to be able to fill the stands. What isn’t mirage continues to feel like farce here.

As a break from the Commonwealth Games Campaign (go to www.commonwealthgamescampaign.org to support the work), I spent a delightful couple of hours visiting with Mridula Koshy, a former SEIU and IAF organizer largely in the Portland, Oregon area who is now a well read author of short fiction and a coming novel living with her family in Delhi. I’ve told the story before in several places of stumbling onto her book of short stories while killing time in the domestic airport in Delhi before flying to Mumbai on my last visit. We’re publishing two of her stories in the coming two issues of Social Policy, which I’m quite excited about doing.

Mridula gave me the opportunity of not just talking about blanks in my understanding of India and organizing here, but also allowing me to test some of my suppositions and theories with someone with whom I shared a common language of organizing. Coming from her IAF experience with the redoubtable Dick Harmon, she made many suggestions about whether or not ACORN India could find “mediating institutions” that might help. Colleges and universities were one of our brainstorms and it resonated with our work in Mumbai and our organizers’ own histories of activism in Delhi, so that suggestion is high on the list of things to discuss with the staff in our next meetings. She also hit home with me by filling in a couple of Bollywood blanks particularly the social change focus on one of the more well know directors who has appeared in our YouTube blurbs to support the “Waste” documentary on our organizing in Dharavi and the ACORN India Trust and noting the way he was focusing on the college and university market for change as well.

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