The Guardian: "Myths of Victorian squalor" by Jeremy Seabrook

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Interesting article about many of the topics covered in my thesis, and with analysis from one of my favorite academics in India, Amitabh Kundu, however he failed to bridge the Victorian slum/modern slum connection myth raised in the title.

"To view urban slums as a modern manifestation of industrialising Britain is damaging, and prevents genuine, helpful analysis

Most reports – official, academic, journalistic – on the slum population of the world foresee a relentless increase in these agglomerations of human misery. For three decades the UN has overestimated the future population of the world's megacities: in 1975, the UN Population Fund forecast a 2000 population of 19.7 million for Kolkata (it was 13.1). Jakarta was to reach 16.9 million (it had 11.1). Mexico City 31.6 million (18.1), Cairo 16.4 million (10.4).

The most recent UN/HItalicabitat document, The Challenge of Slums in 2003, sees the doubling by 2030 of the 1 billion slum dwellers of today. Asia will have at least five cities with more than 20 million by 2025 – Jakarta, Dhaka, Karachi, Shanghai and Mumbai. Mike Davis, in his splendid polemic, Planet of Slums, evokes a plausibly scary world in which hundreds of millions of young urban unemployed, prey to fundamentalism – Muslim and Christian – are potential recruits in drug wars, mafias, and political militias.

Given this apocalyptic consensus, it is surprising that the government of India's urban poverty report of 2009 (pdf) claims a mere 25% of people in cities live in slums, against The Challenge of Slums estimate of 60%. In June 2009, the president of India declared there would be a "slum-free India" in the next five years.

It is natural for governments to play down slum populations, just as non-government organisations working with the urban poor will seek to inflate the figures to impress donors. But why such wide variations?"...(for full article, click here)

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