Necrosettlements by Rishi Jha
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.