By Dhwani Pandya
MUMBAI (Reuters) -Thousands of protesters led by opposition parties marched towards billionaire Gautam Adani’s offices in Mumbai on Saturday to voice their opposition to his conglomerate’s $614 million redevelopment plans for one of Asia’s largest slums in the city.
Protesters carried flags and banners with slogans such as “Remove Adani Save Dharavi” from the slum to Adani’s premises in the central business district of India’s financial capital.
“We are not against development, but the way the Dharavi redevelopment is planned it will only benefit Adani and not the slum residents,” Baburao Mane, leader of Save Dharavi Committee (Dharavi Bachao Andolan), said.
The protest comes amid growing political opposition to the state government – ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and allies – for giving undue favours to Adani firms in allotting and executing the slum overhaul contract.
A rival bidder – a Dubai-based consortium – has mounted a legal challenge alleging the Maharashtra government improperly cancelled an original 2018 tender for the slum redevelopment and favoured Adani in giving the new contract.
The Dharavi project was awarded to the Adani Group through a fair, open and internationally competitive bidding process, the conglomerate said in statement late on Saturday evening. The state government has denied any wrongdoing and says the contract was awarded as per laws and policies.
Protesters have demanded that both eligible and non-eligible residents of the slum be housed inside the redeveloped area and be given bigger homes of 500 square feet, instead of the promised 300-350 sq ft. Some protesters also want the government to take over the slum overhaul instead of private developers like Adani.
The Maharashtra state government in July approved Adani Group’s bid to overhaul Dharavi, which is known for producing leather goods, following years of failed attempts.
The slum, about three-quarters the size of New York’s Central Park, featured in Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning 2008 movie “Slumdog Millionaire”, and has open sewers and shared toilets. It is located close to Mumbai’s international airport and high-rise office blocks housing foreign companies – making a stark contrast to India’s development boom.
(Reporting by Dhwani Pandya; Editing by David Holmes and Tom Hogue)