Morarji Desai was earlier the Home Minster of the State of Bombay and later its Chief Minister when the first major eviction drive of slum dwellers was carried out post independence. Sociologist S S Jha in his book 'Structure of urban Poverty' (1986) writes that "soon after independence ... Morarji Desai and the Mayor of this city the late S.K. Patil had a dream and an aspiration to create another ‘Paris’ out of this city of Bombay". The demolition drive led to eviction of more than 5000 families and the setting of the Janata Colony at Mankhurd.
While in the year 1950 when a demand was made by Greater Bombay Tenants Association/Union for rationalisation of space for accommodating the pavement dwellers he opposed it and held that the best solution was for people to go back from where they came and held them as unproductive labour.
While he was the Chief Minister of the State of Bombay he ordered firing on the protesters of Samyukt Maharashtra movement on 21st November 1955 during which 105 people died. During the post emergency elections in the year 1977 he was elected as the Prime Minister.