For those of you who aren’t following Indian news super closely, soon home of the more successful Amani brother, Mukesh CEO of half of the Reliance group (one of the largest companies in India) inherited (and split with his brother) from his father, will be completed.
This, mind you, is no ordinary home. In fact, it is seen as one of the most expensive, private homes built (I guess places like the Forbidden palace is somehow disqualified).
The building, estimated at a cost of 1 billion, is an extravagant layered creation, operated by 600 staff and with 3 helipads and whatnot else. The building is interesting no doubt. However, as you probably can imagine, it has raised quite some eyebrows. Estimates has it that almost half of Mumbai’s 16m citizens are living in slums. Certainly there are large amounts of them without proper sanitation or waste management.
Sure, in a free economy he does have any right to use his money anyway he see fits. I am sure he got his money under less exploitative conditions than Marie-Antoinette, but I do get the feeling that there is a clear “let them eat cake”-moment playing out here.
The reversal of opinion about fast-growing cities, previously considered bad news, began with The Challenge of Slums, a 2003 UN-Habitat report. The book’s optimism derived from its groundbreaking fieldwork: 37 case studies in slums worldwide. Instead of just compiling numbers and filtering them through theory, researchers hung out in the slums and talked to people. They came back with an unexpected observation: “Cities are so much more successful in promoting new forms of income generation, and it is so much cheaper to provide services in urban areas, that some experts have actually suggested that the only realistic poverty reduction strategy is to get as many people as possible to move to the city.
While slums clearly are places where living standards often are way below what we think is adequate for humans, and there are huge challenges to informal urban living to be faced, they might be a positive phenomenon.