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Slum Whisperer of Mumbai Houses Poor by Courting Rich

By the time Indian developer Babulal Varma stepped in, bulldozers and police with truncheons were a day away from forcibly evicting the last residents of a corrugated-roofed, rain-tarped slum that had grown like a tumor into a prime area of central Mumbai.

This time, Varma recounts, it was an old woman holding up his plans to replace the slum with a $1 billion complex: six luxury towers with million-dollar apartments overlooking the Arabian Sea, coupled with housing blocks nearby with free homes for all the slum dwellers with rights to the land. It’s not that the old woman didn’t want a free apartment. She wanted two. Yet the law permits developers to give only one.