From Jail To Homes: History Of BDD Chawls To Be Preserved In A Museum

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History of BDD Chawls will be preserved in a museum at Worli. A Cultural Heritage Museum will be built at the Worli BDD.

By Varun Singh

What is the full form of BDD Chawls? What was the main purpose of these BDD chawls? Who constructed it?

There are many questions of which answers many seek, when they hear the word BDD Chawls.

Let’s answer some of them, the full form of BDD chawls is Bombay Development Directorate Chawls. They were originally built as jails for prisoners of the World War. Yes got it right these jails were built by the British.

But to know about the history of BDD soon you may not be dependent on a mere google search.

The reason being that there will be a Cultural Heritage Museum that will built at BDD Worli.

BDD chawls are a synonym to the middle class population’s history of Mumbai, The chawls have a rich history and a culture which can be termed as the melting pot of different identities still thrives in Central Mumbai.

To start with history, lets talk about the presence of BDD chawls in Mumbai. The most important aspect of BDD chawls is, that it is spread over 92 acre of prime land in Mumbai. There are a total of 195 chawls in Worli, Naigaon and NM Joshi Marg. There also exists few BDD chawls in Sewree.

Currently MHADA is redeveloping the BDD chawls in the three locations.

N M Joshi Marg, Lower Parel

  • Chawls: 32
  • Tenants: 2,560
  • Funds: Rs 2,460 crore+
  • Tender Won by: Shapoorij Pallonji 


  • Chawls: 42
  • Tenants: 9,869
  • Funds required: Rs2,800+ crore
  • Tender won by: L&T


  • Chawls: 121
  • Tenants: 9,689
  • Funds Required: Rs 10,700 crore
  • Tender Won by: Tata Capacite 

Also Read: Sneak peak of BDD Worli homes post redevelopment

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According to a senior MHADA official associated with the BDD chawl redevelopment, the museum at Worli will showcase the history of the chawls.

Datta Ishwalkar, noted mill union leader of Mumbai says, “The construction of a museum will be a tribute to the working class of the city. From barracks meant from prisoners, the working class made the BDD chawls as their homes.”

BDD chawls came post 1920, and as mentioned it was meant to keep prisoners. However, later, the chawls also was used to keep activists of the freedom struggle.

During the period close to Independence, many workers who came to the city of Mumbai were asked to reside here.

The British would collect rent from them, and after India achieve Independence, the Bombay Development Directorate started collecting rent.

As time passed these chawls became the place where majority of mill workers who would work in central Mumbai started residing.

It’s a melting pot of several cultures, from Maharashtrians who form the majority, to Telugu speaking population and even Gujaratis and other communities reside here.

These buildings were known for its strength. However, with time they have started falling apart.

A few years ago, MHADA was assigned the authority to redevelop the chawls, while the residents who current reside in 160 sq ft homes will get 500 sq ft apartments, the current structures will be part of history.

Also Read: Corona impact: Many BDD tenants ready for transit

“For the future generation to know about BDD chawls and even for the residents, the museum will be a good source,” says Ishwalkar.

According to sources in MHADA, the museum will have pictures, and videos via which one will be able to relish the history of BDD chawls.

A consultant shall be appointed to study, the nitty gritty o the museum and will be built at Worli.

Recently one of the BDD chawl redevelopment at Naigaon was in trouble, after, Larsen & Torubo sent a letter to MHADA wanting to pull out from the redevelopment.

Talks have begun regarding retaining L&T at the Chief Minister Office level though.

Also Read: Has L&T Pulled Out Of Naigaon BDD Redevelopment?

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