The chawls of Mumbai
Chawls are typical dwellings in Mumbai, built in the 19th and 20th centuries (especially between 1920 and 1956) by landlords and industrialists to accomodate immigrant labor.
Chawls are “buildings with one room or two room units of not more than two hundred square feet attached by a common corridor with shared toilets on each floor”. Living conditions are quite sordid in the chawls, most of which being about to collapse. ‘Legally’ they do not qualify as slums which refer to jodapattis, squatter hoursings on unused land and pavements dwellings, tents and huts, “shanties built on footpaths alongside roads/pavements, close to workplace”. The families who live in chawls refuse to vacate the premises. On one hand because of the low rent for places in the heart of the city, and on the other hand because the social networking that exists in these structures.
The Bombay Rent Act of 1947, enacted at the time of Partition, froze the rents at the level of 1St September 1940, to protect tenants. This freeze lasted for more than 50 years (the Maharashtra Rent Control Act in 1999 took over the Bombay Rent Act (twenty times renewed) and allowed a 5% rent increase the first year and then 4%) and caused the ruin of the buildings – at this level of rent, the owners could not invest in maintenance or repairs. As a consequence of all this, living in a chawl costs 250 rupees per month to former tenants and one can find offers on the Internet for 1,000 rupees. To give an idea, renting a 700 square feet apartment (thrice the surface) costs in the same area minimum 25,000 Rs (100 times more!).
Chawls of Girgaum - one can note the Mercedes on the left side (contrasts of India!)
Sources: http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=281... ; http://www.mcgm.gov.in/irj/go/km/docs/documents/MCGM%20Department%20List/City%20Engineer/Deputy%20City%20Engineer%20%28Planning%20and%20Design%29/City%20Development%20Plan/Urban%20Basic%20Services%20in%20Slums.pdf