Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The housing problem in Bombay presents certain special features. Lack of space has given birth to the chawl, a tenement three to four storeys high with at least one family in each small room. The plan by which a central passage provides entry to rooms on either side is unsatisfactory, and the main characteristics of these dwellings must be entirely foreign to the habits and customs of their occupants. The entry of light and air is greatly restricted, and the insufficient space between the individual tenements further accentuates these defects. Not only are the sanitary arrangements totally inadequate, but cleansing and sanitation are also badly neglected. There can be no question that many of the older types of mill chawls are detrimental to the health of their occupants, and, although they are being gradually eliminated, large numbers still remain in use. Moreover, because of their proximity to the mills, they are invariably the most crowded, and frequently additional difficulty is caused by persons other than mill employees inhabiting them. In the majority of cases these chawls are impossible of improvement and therefore fit only for demolition. We suggest later how their disappearance might be expedited.
An enquiry made in 1926 by the Bombay Labour Office showed that 28 of the textile mills had provided housing in the form of single-room tenements for about 20% of their employees, a full economic rent being charged in only two cases. The Bombay Port Trust has built chawls in three centres which accommodate over 3, 000 of its 8, 000 workers. The Bombay Improvement Trust provides for all its workers housing accommodation of a low standard, the semi-permanent sheds being made of corrugated iron.
With these exceptions, housing is provided by private landlords. The general standard is low and the practice of sub-letting for profit is common and adds considerably to the degree of overcrowding.