What Does Slumdog Do For The Real Slumdogs In Dharavi

February 26, 2009
Vijay Sappani

I liked it, in fact I loved it. Slumdog Millionaire is a true adaptation of reality in the slums of Dharavi, one of the biggest slums in the world, in a city that houses some of the richest billionaires in the world too. The movie won 8 Oscars, made millions in revenue and opened to the eyes of the world to reality of life in a slum. What's next ?

Here is a video of a real kid from a slum in India showing his linguistic skills and here is in his teenage years, still doing the same thing. (HT - This is reality for the children and very little change comes to them.

Politicians have come forward to rehouse the two children who still live in the slum to a housing colony, but nothing has been said or done about those thousands who still languish in the slum, not complaining but cheering for the success of Slum dog.

I was in India last December working with children in slum schools, part of my decade long initiative on right to basic education through my organization Asha for Education. In my experience, I have seen movies, actors, politicians come and go, but little has changed for the lives of the children in these slums from these people. About 65 millions Indians live in slums, almost a quarter of the urban population and more than one third of Mumbai residents live in slums. Now don't get me wrong, some of these slums have electricity, running water, TV's and even a few have computer centers. That is not the norm but the exception.

Its an irony that on the day of Slumdog winning 8 Oscars, India announced its next ambitious space project to send a manned mission in 2015 at a cost of $2.5 billion, a pittance to its growing wealth. It is great that India is doing it. while it is important that India grows in stride by sending satellites to Moon and Mars, it is also important to send their children to school, give them a chance to get a decent education so that the next generation at least does not have to languish in the slums. India's growth and prosperity will not come just with technological advancements, but its abilities to use them to bring people out of poverty and improve the quality of life for the millions who still in unacceptable conditions. It is important that the Indian diaspora, that is among the wealthiest and influential in the world, should hold India accountable for and contribute towards it through non governmental agencies.

These children don't need money, they need an opportunity for education to compete in the real world. They need skills that can get them a decent job. They don't need any one's sympathy, they just need a fair chance
and I think it is fair to say, we can do it!

Vijay Sappani is a toronto based political and community activist. Articulate in policy issues, Vijay is well versed in national and international issues and advises many organizations in Canada. You can read more about him at or contact him at
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What Does Slumdog Do For The Real Slumdogs In Dharavi


Author: Vijay Sappani


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February 26, 2009
10:54 AM

I agree with you. But there is no way out for India. There will not be enough jobs for the number of people getting added to the populkation each year. It is ten speps forward and nine backward. Just take the present population and project forward you will create a frightening scenario. China will move forward and India will stagnate. No one seems to care. For the Congress appeasing the minorities seems to work and BJP wants to build a temple. Both approaches doom to failure. They probably will go to the moon. But slums are there to stay.

February 26, 2009
04:50 PM

The SM makers have announced that they would give flats to the 2 slum kid actors. The movie has made over 100M, raked in every conceivable awards and has changed the fortunes of everybody involved with SM. So the legitimate question is - what about all other slum kids? Where do they get their hopes? The movie certainly does not offer them any hope to get out of slums - it tells them go win some game show or be a criminal like Salim. Many have argued that SM has done more than its part, it has brought world-wide awareness to the slums of India, it has brought worldwide award glories to Indian artists. So the symbolic gestures made by SM makers are more than any cine artist should be asked to do. The ball is in India's court to capitalize on the awareness about slums and do more. That is where real action should take place and real hope should come from.

Not to be outdone by SM makers, Maharastra government has offered 2 flats to the slum actor kids. Here is a government of a richest state of India, and all it could come up is a symbolic gesture limited to 2 slum kids? What about all other slum kids? How do they make out of the slums? Is over government telling them go land in some movie and win Oscars to make it? Like SM dangles a game show as a hope to get out of slums, our government is dangling even far worse odds to get out of slums. What are the odds of landing on a movie or winning Oscars, they are far less than landing on KBC. Yet. This government will get few pictures taken with slum stars, make symbolic gestures of generosity to them, win all slum votes and go about doing nothing.

-55million families have been pushed below poverty line in last 5 years. So everyday, as we speak, lakhs of people are being dumped into slums and poverty.

-Our economic paradigm can not create jobs and economic opportunities for all Indians - sizable population must live in slums and become beggars. There is absolutely no hope for them. The lack of hope is systemic

-Our educational paradigm is job-centric and not wealth-oriented. That means it transforms population into job-seekers but very few into job-creators and wealth-creators. Therefore, education can not deliver hope to all.

-Our economic paradigm and population distribution is exclusively urban-centric. Since urban centers are where jobs and economic opportunities are, mass exodus from all over India are overwhelming the resources of few urban areas. Nothing other than slums remain affordable and accessible to the lower and lower-middle-class population.

-The rate at which more people are added to the slums far outstrips rate at which slumdogs are rescued from the slums. So the slums are here to stay.

Vijay S
February 26, 2009
05:03 PM

India has unemployment and unemployable people. There are thousands of vacancies in skilled jobs sector but not enough people with the required skills. This is going to be a problem. So the solution is to train and re train people to today's job needs and make it easy for people to go and work abroad :)

February 26, 2009
07:31 PM


Show me an economic system or a country that has produced or is capable of producing 1 Billion jobs. Not even America's most advanced economic system that hogs much of world's markets and resources is capable of producing employment on such a scale. America's consumerist economic model is in a deep doodoo - it can barely manage to provide employment to its population that is not even 1/3 of India's, and yet it needs to expand to the whole world in order to remain economically viable for its tiny base of citizens. America's economic model badly needs India even though it can only provide less than full employment in India and generate massive escalation in the cost structure and vast slumification of India. It can only offer salvation to few chosen ones of India, and rest must remain content to slug it out in slums. That is economic colonialism 101 where nation is compelled to adopt economic system that does not serve it but because it serves some foreign countries. Foreigners rake in millions in real life while Indians are dangles the pipe dreams in reel life.

February 26, 2009
07:50 PM

kerty, Very interesting. I wonder what econic model is going to work for India. The best that could be done is being done now. You could tinker a little here and there. That won't make much difference. Nehru tried socialism and simply got no where for almost four decades. Perhaps you could tell us what needs to be done to replace this economic colonialism.

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