Name: Raju Korde, 42
Occupation: Entrepreneur, Freelance journalist, Social activist
Father’s Name: Dattaram Korde
Growing up in a 10ft-by-15ft chawl in Dharavi—Asia’s biggest and most industrious slum—can never be a pleasant experience, assures Raju Korde. But it can teach you one or two valuable lessons—that it’s not difficult to make money, and not everyone measures life in monetary terms.
Korde is the convener of the Dharavi Bachao Andolan Samiti (DBAS), a multi-party organization working to make sure the redevelopment plan of Dharavi is in favour of its residents and not builders. The redevelopment project is worth Rs10,000 crore and as one of the few men who can influence the course it takes, Korde is a sought-after man.
Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
The 42-year-old is a lawyer, member of the Communist Party of India, freelancer with newspapers such as Maharashtra Times and Loksatta, runs a mobile phone repair shop, a printing press and a theatre group. Besides being the convener of DBAS, of course. Only the printing press and shop are profitable, but Korde considers the others as better yardsticks to measure life with.
Korde’s father Dattaram, who died in 1990, worked in a lentil-polishing factory in Mazgaon, and his mother in a bottle-recycling unit in Parel. His siblings—a brother and two sisters—dropped out of school early to support the family. Being the youngest, Korde was allowed to continue in school and went on to get a master’s degree in law.
Korde started the printing press in 1990 along with a telephone booth, which he later converted into the repair shop. With the money he made out of these ventures, he started the Dharavi Times—a four-page newsletter of which he was the “porter, reporter and editor”.
In 2002, when the government invited real estate developer Mukesh Mehta to chalk out a redevelopment plan for Dharavi, Korde interviewed him for Dharavi Times. As Mehta told him about the plan, several points irked him, the most important being that the plan was drawn in favour of builders and not Dharavi’s residents.
“These are uneducated people and everyone knows that they’re not going to live too long in a high-rise,” he says. When the government gave its approval to Mehta’s plan, it cemented Korde’s belief that nobody was interested in residents’ welfare.
He joined forces with other like-minded people and the rest, as they say, is a court case.
His two children go to school and their education is sharply scrutinized by his wife, who is a graduate. In material terms, Korde’s achievements don’t invite envy, but then, how many people have hosted Prince Charles and Danny Boyle at home?