Social Scientist. v 6, no. 66-67 (Jan-Feb 1978) p. 15.


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CLASS POLICIES IN METROPOLITAN DEVELOPMENT 15

the Howrah station, the dug up earth on the Maidan for the metro railway and reconditioned sewer lines in certain areas bear witness to the process of renewal which has already taken shape or is in progress. Obviously, the declared aim of all these programmes has been to arrest the decay of the metropolis and make it liveable for the millions who are its inhabitants. In reality, who exactly have been the beneficiaries of massive developmental investments?

The Housing Problem

Of the three million citizens living in the one hundred Corporation Wards, over one-third have been enumerated as workers by the 1971 census. This, however, does not convey the'real picture. The crass reality reveals itself much more in the way the people live. Nearly one-third of the people of Calcutta live in recognised slums and an equal number in 'slum-like' housing units, noted the Interim Report on Housing of the Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organisation (CMPO). In 1972 there were over two thousand five hundred bustee premises in the city proper offering shelter to nearly one million people.

Calcutta residents have long understood from direct experience that the housing problems of the metropolis represent a severe ^crisis^ in the fullest sense of the term. Vast numbers of people live in conditions which are almost unimaginably squalid and degrading. Harsh as these circumstances already are, the prospects for the future seem even more discouraging. If past trends continue, the numbers affected by such conditions will increase many times over the next twenty years. The metropolis of the future could become an environment for living which is pervasively and overwhelmingly deficient. Massive areas could be occupied by the worst and most inhuman form of slum development. The slum population of the metropolis could in fact exceed the total population of all but a few of the world's other large cities.1

Extend your investigation to the Calcutta Metropolitan District beyond the borders of the Corporation, and you would get a picture which is equally stunning. In 1961, over four lakh housing units (about one-third of the total) had non-permanent, kutcha walls. Of the sixty-five thousand new housing units needed on an average every year between 1961-1981, only a small fraction could be actually built. The gap, therefore, has gone on widening in the last decade and a half.

The CMPO Report said that inspite of this terrible housing shortage there was real lack of effective demand. The vast majority of CMD households could not afford the rent, let alone purchase. It estimated that no household in the lowest 45 percent of CMD households could afford to pay more than Rs 28 per month for housing, and that no household in the lowest 85 percent could afford more than Rs 78.' Today this amount can hardly fetch a decent single room even in the periphery of the city, not to speak of the core area.



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