|Dharavi by owenstache via Flickr|
As this article from CNNgo.com suggests, slum tourism is becoming more popular in developing countries around the world. You could blame it on those seeking a spiritual awakening, or maybe those looking for some great photo opportunities, or even on the Oscar-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire. But, perhaps, the reality is that many from industrialized nations travel to the developing world to understand something they are not so familiar with - poverty.
Here's the problem: are tour agencies really reducing poverty by parading foreigners through street slums or is the bottom line another way to exploit the underprivileged for profit?
Based on the article, it seems like the Dharavi-based tour group in Mumbai is trying to do something to give back, though there is certainly criticism from NGOs in the area. And in the end, tour-goers may walk away from this experience with some level of understanding about poverty and give back themselves.
Personally, I've never been to a slum in India. When you travel to the sub-continent, you don't need to walk the streets of a quartered slum to see poverty first-hand. Street dwellers exist everywhere. I do want to see life in a slum, though, but on my own. I want to talk to the people living there, hear their stories, and see the impact that the NGOs are making. A tour group's timetables and rules would likely restrict such interaction.
Would you do a slum tour?