“Residents skeptical of Adani’s Mumbai slum makeover bid, alleging favoritism.”

Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s ambitious proposal to relocate a million residents from the expansive Dharavi slum in Mumbai, one of Asia’s largest, is generating concerns among residents due to Adani’s recent financial setbacks and allegations of preferential treatment from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allies. Dharavi, featured in the film “Slumdog Millionaire,” remains in stark contrast to the nearby development boom in Mumbai, with open sewers and shared facilities.

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Adani is leading efforts to redevelop Dharavi after the Maharashtra state government approved his $614 million contract bid to transform the slum, renowned for its leather goods production, following multiple failed attempts over the years. Adani Group aims to demolish the unhygienic conditions and build new towers on state-owned land to accommodate residents and businesses. Estimates suggest that Adani might invest up to $12 billion for this redevelopment, potentially yielding revenue of up to $24 billion from development rights.

Only those residing in Dharavi before 2000, mostly ground-floor residents, will receive free homes within the project. Around 700,000 inhabitants from higher floors will be deemed ineligible and offered units up to 10 kilometers away, possibly incurring upfront costs or higher rents.

Adani’s plan comes during a turbulent period for his conglomerate. Accusations by U.S. short seller Hindenburg led to a substantial loss of market valuation, and a legal challenge from competitor SecLink Technologies Corporation further threatens Adani’s Dharavi project. SecLink alleges Maharashtra canceled an initial 2018 tender improperly and restarted it in 2022 with new terms favoring Adani.

While the current state government, aligned with Modi’s party, contests SecLink’s claims, the Dharavi project remains a contentious issue, with Adani’s reputation being questioned due to his financial troubles and allegations of political influence. The project’s outcome could potentially impact the political landscape in the lead-up to the 2024 national elections.

Amidst the lingering mistrust, Adani’s project envisions larger apartments with modern fittings, but concerns persist among Dharavi residents about displacement and potential loss of livelihoods. Adani remains optimistic about the redevelopment despite the challenges, aiming for an improved future for Dharavi’s residents.

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