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Admirável (?) mundo novo

Junho 12, 2024


As the headquarters of India's software and computer service industries, as well as a major center for the manufacture of military aircraft, Bangalore (population 6 million) prides itself on its California-style shopping malls, golf courses, nouvelle cuisine restaurants, five-star hotels, and English-language cinemas. Dozens of tech campuses display logos for Oracle, Intel, Dell, and Macromedia, and local universities and technical institutes graduate 40,000 skilled workers and engineers each year. Bangalore advertises itself as a "prosperous garden city," and its southern suburbs are indeed a middle-class Shangri-la. Meanwhile, draconian urban renewal programs have driven underprivileged residents from the center to the slum periphery, where they live side by side with poor migrants from the countryside. An estimated 2 million poor people, many of them scorned members of the scheduled castes, squat in 1000 or so fetid slums, mostly on government-owned land. Slums have grown twice as fast as the general population, and researchers have characterized Bangalore's periphery as "the dumping ground for those urban residents whose labour is wanted in the urban economy but whose visual presence should be reduced as much as possible."

Half of Bangalore's population lacks piped water, much less cappuccino, and there are more ragpickers and street children (90,000) than software geeks (about 60.000). In an archipelago of 10 slums, researchers found only 19 latrines for 102.000 residents. Solomon Benjamin, a Bangalore-based consultant for the UN and the World Bank, reports that "children suffered heavily from diarrhoea and worm infestations, a high proportion were malnourished, and infant mortal ity rates in the slums were much higher than the state average." By the millennium, moreover, India's and Bangalore's neoliberal bubble had burst: although software continued to grow, "employment prospects in almost all other sectors, especially the public sector, have shrunk rapidly or face unstable prospects. Thus the granite, steel and tinted glass offices in Bangalore, most of them belonging to software companies, pose a stark contrast to ill-maintained factories facing falling orders and tighter credit conditions." Ruefully, a leading Western economic consultant was forced to concede that "Bangalore's high tech [boom] is a drop in the bucket in a sea of poverty."

excerpt from Planet of slums, by Mike Davis


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