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What it Meant to Live in a Chicago Project and the Neo-Projects of India

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What it Meant to Live in a Chicago Project and the Neo-Projects of India

They build in the name of development. An inanimate concept that creates debts between those living in the first world countries and those dying in third and developing constructs, even when privilege stares into the eyes of poverty, the rich would still displace millions just to construct. The Irony is that in the name of building up a nation, some believe they must tear down, demolish, and disrupt, the homes and lives of a space where “veiling your questioning looks doesn’t come easy.” But people in Mumbai scream Zinda-Baad. Zinda-Baad is for the movement.

My dad lived in the Henry Horner Projects on the west side of Chicago in the 1960’s and 70’s. My cousins and parents speak of the conditions of hard knock life in these projects. And even though many protested their demise, it was no secret that life in these American projects were difficult– crime was high, services and resources were low, and quality of life was plagued with poverty and systemic oppression. Although still debated, for many, there was a sigh of relief when the last Cabrini Greene project was torn down in Chicago only a year ago.

For the past decade in Mumbai, India, developers have participated in the mission of displacing poor communities and moving them into an Indian version of the original Chicago projects. It strikes me to find out that these very same projects (called rehabilitation homes here in India) are thought to be the future plans for the city and the answer what some believe to be the “slum problem.” This has even been backed by legislation called the Slum Rehabilitation Act/Authority.

Developers want to move poor people out of their homes (located in slums) and put them in high-rise projects so they can use the remaining space, usually located in prime real-estate areas, to build malls, apartment buildings, movie theaters and a multitude of first world imperialistic constructs.

These constructs echo the remnants of lives lost in the creed of what it means to be developed. Through this process of moving poor people into what I am calling the neo-projects, children are killed, mothers arrested, families displaced. Homes are shattered on the backs of sudras, dalits, the impoverished, and the marginalized. The Shelter from bricks, plastic, metal, and wood are torn down, only to land on the shadows of the disenfranchised. The shadows of the “tribal’s”, the oppressed, the “rag-pickers”, the “beggars” and those who work 16 hours days for three lifetimes, only to see the fruits of their work smashed by construction workers who build and destroy in the name of the one percent.

These are construction workers who have children to feed and families to protect. These are workers who build their livelihood with one hand and demolish communities with the other. All in the name of greed, capitalism, investment, land, property, space, and presence. The presence of corrupt politicians, blood thirsty developers, and desperate slum dwellers that are at the mercy of rupees.

Rupees that separate life from death, rupees that place the distance of clean water within ones own kitchen or as far as a 15 mile walk down the road. Rupees that represent a currency that breeds privilege and power that contradicts law and order, because in slums there is no order, no right or wrong, no good or bad, no night or day, only a blurred line between a life simply trying to make it through the next rotation of the sun. All the while simultaneously the bourgeoisie only see human bodies bridging barriers between what is poor and what produces more rupees, more money, more building, more demolishing, more death– all in the name of development.