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The main thing that I wanted to see in Mumbai was Dharavi or the largest slum. I have been into the favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the township of Swakopmund, Namibia. With Reality Tours “no camera” policy, my notebook and pen had to work overtime.

Dharavi is by some considered to be the heart of Mumbai because of its central location, located between 2 main railway lines plus all of the manufacturing that is done here. (Photos from "Inside Dharavi - the photobook" Reality Tours & Travel)


From my note book:

  • 1 million people live here.



  • 570,000 per sq km.
  • 20 times more dense than rest of Mumbai.
  • 175 hectares = 432 acres = 1.75 sq km = .07 sq m = 500 football pitches or what I can understand = ½ New York’s Central Park.



  • 10,000 small business.
  • Earning estimated 665 US$ income.
  • Most is given to owners who live OUTSIDE Dharavi.
  • Generally work 9 – 10 hours a day.
  • While those in the garment industry will work 6 days, others may work 7 days.
  • Often start work at 18 or 19.
  • 35% of Indians are under 35.




Health and Safety

Love (not) the total lack of health and safety – practice, equipment or signage. Employees are here to earn commission as they are working on piece meal rate. Adhering to health and safety procedures will just slow them down.


Plastic sorted by colour and shredded into tiny pellets.





Light industry making machinery parts for the small factories.

Roof Top View

Climbing several flights of stairs came out onto a roof top and had a much better overview of the size of not only the size of Dhavari but also the narrow alleyways that we had just walked through.


SRA or Slum Rehabilitation Authority

Learnt a bit about the SRA or Slum Rehabilitation Authority which started in 1995.

In 2004 housing was provided free to slum people where they can live for 10 years and can then sell. However they felt isolated plus the cost of living. Electricity and water is given by the government plus they have private toilets.



  • Families of 4-5 live in a single room.
  • Average 10 sq metres.



  • Rent of 3,500 – 4,000 rupees / NZ$73.80 – 84.30 / US$54.30 – 62.10 a month.
  • 8 communal toilets (4 male and 4 female) are used by 100 families.
  • Water is on for just an hour a day and stored in barrels.
  • Each place has a postal address.


  • Each community has what I will call a residents association where their views are conveyed to the local authority.

In the middle of each community was an open bare rocky rough ground with chicken, dogs, goats roaming and the children playing cricket, soccer or spinning tops


What happens to the hotels half used soap? It is collected from hotels, boiled down and made into soap that is used for dishwashing.

Sari dying

250 a day where they are soaked for an hour.

Leather Tanning

This was once a major industry here but banned in 1996 partly because of the chemical acid. Now the tanned leather is brought in from surrounding cities where it is still tanned and finished off here. However the flip side is factories are closing down due to the transportation cost.

Goat and sheep skins are washed, levelled and coloured. Then imprint. The Dharavi brand is proudly promoted.


The bakery we went into was making trays after trays of khari biscuit which is a breakfast food. 4,000 pieces are made a day in what to me was a pizza oven. 100kg of butter is added to the flour to give it the orange colour. They are then packed in kerosene tins for despatch.

Khari biscuits is an Indian version of puff pastries which is dipped in tea and coffee.



The garment industry is the 2nd largest business after the plastic. Finished product has good margins. The factory that I went into, each person was able to produce 20 pieces a day. Twenty people worked here. They were making shirts when I walked through.


Screen Printing

Another factory was screen printing.


How much are people paid?

Skilled labour earn 450 – 500 rupees / NZ$9.50 – 10.50 / US$7.00 – 7.80 a day
Those in the recycling earn 250 – 300 rupees / NZ$5.30 – 6.30 / US$3.90 – 4.65 a day.



While I saw the males behind the sewing machines, the women were out making poppadum.
1 kg will make 14 pieces.
They make 2 – 3 kgs a day in a couple of hours.
Dried in the sun for 2-3 hours.
The company gives the ladies the dough and pay for rolling by the weight of the finished items.



Community Centres

Went into one of Reality Tours 3 community centres – Ashayen Community Centre where computer skills, English, life skills, sports workshop and dance was on this week’s programme.

While the classes are free, each person pays 500 rupees / NZ$10.50 / US$7.80 deposit which is refunded if they achieve a 90% attendance.



With the limited places available, the challenge is getting them into college and university as it is based on merit. Children gets free government education till the age of 16 and the Community Centre adds to this by offering extra skills especially English and computer skills to help them get a job. The Centres have been going for 8 years now offering these extra curriculum activities like football. They can cater 20 students in 2 classes at a time.




1,200 families are employed in the pottery area. The guy making pottery cups said he produces 250 to 300 cups a day. The waste from the garments factories come free and are used as fuel for the kilns. Cotton is used as a filter to cover the pots when fired and it helps control the smoke after a couple of hours burning.



I don’t usually buy books when on tour but couldn’t resist their photo book for 960 rupee / NZ$20.20 / US$14.90. That plus a 60 rupees / NZ$1.25 / US$0.90 postcard to send to Eve to add to the collection in their lunch room.



Some more interesting links:





Here are some more images from Dr “Google”:


Posted by bruceontour 01:05 Archived in India Tagged dharavi

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