This is Rishi Jha’s contribution to GRIP’s Imaging Inequality project. 

Mumbai is amongst the world’s richest cities. But it also houses half of the city’s 18 million, mostly poor, in slums. The state institutions aim to make Mumbai world-class through massive infrastructural developments. These efforts lead to large-scale dispossessions of the urban poor from inner-city slums. These rehousing interventions verticalize and legalize slum-like living conditions, creating new dimensions of inequalities.

Following from Mbembe’s necropolitics and juxtaposing it with the resident’s experiences, I see these townships as necrosettlements. These settlements reflect how the state’s power and profitability in resettlement management systemically subjugate poor populations to life-constraining and death-causing situations.

Vulnerable urban populations are systemically deprived of atmosphere and their right to breathe. Each breath accumulates toxins and causes a gradual pulmonary constriction. The residents calls the township their “maranvashan” (cause of death).

The effects of concrete brutalism are clear: open space is absent; ventilation is minimum, and sunlight is sparse. Yet, these necro-settlements are the outcomes of (legal) state interventions. This project is a living testimony of stately violations, that, hopefully, precedes people’s negotiation for better housing and living conditions, thus materializing new necropolitics for the living.

Structural and institutional domination create extreme urban inequalities that have myriad consequences for already marginalized populations. Are these vignettes of dystopian urban futures? We can hardly disagree! Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that the time has arrived to rethink inequalities and how we deal with them.

Rishi Jha is a doctoral researcher at Lund University, Sweden. His dissertation focuses on capitalist urban redevelopments, slum resettlements, and governance in Indian megacities. His work is anchored in postcolonial capitalism, postcolonial governmentalities, and bio-necropolitics, amongst other scholarly debates. He holds a post-graduation degree from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai). He has an extensive experience of working on welfare policies, poverty alleviation and community development. Before his PhD studies, he also conducted academic research that spanned four continents.

In the recent years, he has been interested in visual representation of urban inequalities, and experiences of capitalist developments from the margins. This is his second exhibition after ‘Liminal Urban Dwelling’ held at Lund, Sweden.