Pavement dwellers

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Pavement dwellers refers to dwellings built on the footpaths/pavements of city streets, which use the walls or fences which separate building compounds from the pavement and street outside. Materials include cloth, corrugated iron, cardboard, wood, plastic, and sometimes also bricks or cement.[1]

According to Sheela Patel of SPARC, pavement dwellers are primarily first generation migrants who moved to Mumbai sometimes 30 to 50 years ago, and who have lived on the pavement of public roadways ever since.[citation needed] They are completely invisible as far as local, state, and national policies are concerned.[citation needed]

SPARC conducted a study in 1985 about the pavement dwellers called "We the Invisible" based on a census of about 6,000 households. It showed approximately half of the pavement dwellers to be from the poorest districts in the state of Maharashtra, with the other half came from the poorest parts of wider India. Many came as victims of drought, famine, earthquakes or religious persecution or riots. Others came as a result of a complete breakdown in their livelihoods where they had been living. Pavement dwellers migrate to Mumbai hoping to capitalize on the wealth and job opportunities that the city offers. They are typically forward-thinking, seeking to build lives in the city that give the next generation better opportunities than would have been possible in the village.[2]

1985 eviction crisis[edit]

In 1985, the Supreme Court of India granted the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai authority to demolish household structures on the sidewalks of Mumbai. With the aid of SPARC, the rights of Mumbai's pavement dwellers were recognised and coexistence was successfully negotiated.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sundar Burra & Liz Riley (1999). "Electricity to pavement dwellers in Mumbai" (PDF). 
  2. ^ Development Gateway Foundation: Urban Development: Empowering Slum Dwellers: Interview with Sheela Patel, 7 September 2004
  3. ^ University College London: Department for International Development: Urban Government: Capacity Building: SPARC: Demolitions to Dialogue: Mahila Milan - learning to talk to its city and municipality