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Housing and Neighbourhoods of Bombay

  • Housing was a major problem in Bombay
  • The administrators had a difficult time providing shelter for the huge population
  • There were 20 people, on an average, for a single house in Bombay
  • The Bombay Fort area was the heart of the city
  • The city was divided into 2 living areas
  • The native town for the Indians
  • The ‘white section’ for the Europeans
  • A European suburb and an industrial zone began to develop to the north of the Fort settlement area
  • The southern portion of the city had the cantonment, for the army
  • The rapid expansion of the city resulted in a housing crisis and problems in water supply
  • There was a sharp contrast in the housing pattern in Bombay
  • The upper caste traders and industrialists lived in sprawling spacious bungalows.
  • The working people lived in the thickly populated chawls of Bombay.

Mill worker of Bombay lived in mill villages which were close to the cotton mills.

Chawls of Bombay

Chawls of Bombay
  • Chawls were multi-storeyed structures which were built in the ‘native’ parts of the town. These houses were owned by private landlords who rented these chawls to migrant workers
    • Each chawl was divided into smaller one-room tenements which had no private toilets.
    • Many families could reside at a time in a tenement.
    • 80 % of Bombay’s population resided in these chawls
    • The chawls were not hygienic and as many people were living in a small area they faced a lot of problems.
    • Water was scarce
    • As the chawls were very small, streets and neighbourhoods were used for cooking, washing and sleeping.
    • Liquor shops and akharas came up in empty spaces
    • Streets were used for different types of leisure activities. Magicians, monkey players and acrobats used the streets to stage their shows.
    • People of the lower caste were not allowed into the chawls
    • The lower caste people were forced to live in temporary shelters made of corrugated sheets, leaves and bamboo poles.
    • The City of Bombay Improvement Trust was established in 1898 as the authorities were worried about health problem, like the plague.
    • The Rent Control Act
    • was passed to contain the rent
    • Scarcity of land was another major problem that hampered housing in Bombay.
    • To solve land scarcity massive reclamation projects were organised.

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