Forget Goa, Dharavi is the new tourist hot spot

The Times of India carried an interesting piece this morning, by Brigida Viggiano, who chronicles her experience as a slum tourist venturing into Mumbai’s famous slum – Dharavi. You can add it to your list of things to do in your next trip to India, the ” The Dharavi walk” would cost Rs. 800 (which ironically also includes air-conditioned transfers to and from the entrance of the slum)

Honestly, I was slightly disgusted when I first heard about this global phenomenon (other slum tourist hot spots include Rio, South Africa and Mexico City). Having spent a couple of my weekends in Dharavi during my stint in Mumbai, I come to believe that the tourists are (hopefully) interested in seeing a little more than the pathetic living conditions. The article for instance mentions the unique economic aspects of the slum:

There were two figures that Girish kept repeating during the tour: 10,000, which is the number of small-scale industries operating in Dharavi, and USD 665 million, which is the annual turnover Dharavi’s residents are estimated to generate. What thrilled me the most, personally, was that I could not find even one person who wasn’t working: the slum dwellers were so engrossed that most failed to even notice that a group of foreign tourists was in their midst.

What also changed my perception of ‘slum tourism’ a little-bit is also the words by a member of an organization working in Dharavi for thirty years, quoted in the piece

I asked her whether she thought her slum-dwellers would have been offended by tourists walking around their houses. Her answer was rather surprising: “Sometimes people come with us to see what a slum means and how we work to improve living conditions. Slum-dwellers are already used to and, indeed, even welcome visitors, since they want them to understand how things have changed over the last few years. They want to shed the label of ‘slum-dweller’ or rather the negative connotation it has.”

So, whats your take on ‘Slum Tourism’. Is it an innovative idea that could bring about better living conditions in these communities or just a smart entrepreneur making some money?

13 Responses

  1. Innovative and entrepreneurial is my vote.

  2. Prashant:

    My question was more in terms of Innovative social change vs. entrepreneurial money making or possibly both (which is what you are hinting towards i guess)

  3. Santhosh,
    Its a bit of both. Actuall as claimed by

    its 80% for profit and 20% for NGO’s.

    However, one thing is sure. They wouldn’t spend a single paisa to relocate these people to places with better living conditions. That would eat into their 80% profit! 🙂

    Also, I wonder if we view this through our conventional notion of “poverty” and “standard of living”. They may be living in huts. But if they are capable of renting out an apartment they own in a nearby flat alloted by slum clearance board, (I know it happens in chennai), are they really poor?

  4. […] posts all dominate the top three this week. First, his dissection of slum tourism in […]

  5. […] Posted on May 26, 2008 by Shital Santhosh pointed out the complexities of slum tourism, and ecotourism itself is a contested issue. Ecotourism extends past slum areas, and into any area […]

  6. hese people to places with better living conditions – good shot! 😀

  7. […] tourism" has been a buzzword (and creating controversy) for some time: there are tours of Dhavari in Mumbai, favelas in Brazil, bus tours of Katrina-damaged areas of New Orleans.  The difference between […]

  8. The name slum is so demeaning and reflects the poverty of the English language It should never be used or glorified Dharvi should be called Dharvi

    Hindus are very astute people Remember the slogan
    Garibi Hatao was to always focussing on the Poverty and never addressed the poor people in a demeaning manner HariJan an inclusive was the term used to uplift people who had been marginalized, interesting the people recently started calling themselves Dalit which is a term outcast and permanently locks the people in an outmoded ideology Words are veryimportant Recently I read that the Dalits now are offended being called Dalits and Mayawati addresses as Apane Log coming full circle to the term HariJan

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