Dharavi rehabilitation caught in a political wrangle

Last week the Maharashtra government decided to provide 300 square feet housing under the Dharavi Redevelopment Project, however all political parties except for the Congress have opposed this move. Their demand is that instead of 300 sq ft the government should provide 400 sq ft housing. In fact the parties observed a black flag day last week and also plan to disrupt railway traffic at Dharavi, in affect bringing the city to a halt.“The government had promised to involve us in consultation yet, the chief minister held a meeting on Friday without even informing us. He issued the 300 sq ft housing comprising of 269 sq ft home with a 131sq ft balcony,” said Raju Korde, member of Dharavi Residents Samanvay Samiti. He added, “People should not forget that the three railway lines - harbour, central and western run along Dharavi and we can bring the city to a halt from here at Dharavi.”The Shiv Sena is among the political parties that are vehemently opposing any move to give houses below 400 sq ft. They say that most residents have shops outside their houses and this concept must exist in the new plans. “We will oppose this project till we get 400 sq ft sanctioned from the government. There are many families living in larger than 300 sq ft houses,” said Suresh Gambhir, Sena legislator from Dharavi. However, residents are of a different view. They refute claims that they own homes more than 300sq ft adding that most residents live in less than 250sq ft homes and are looking forward to a better lifestyle and future after the project. “These politicians will be killed if this project gets further delayed. We are infuriated with these dirty games. Most of us own homes not more 150sq ft, so the demand for a new house, too, should be reasonable. We realise that we need more space for schools, colleges, hospitals, better roads, sewage and drains,” said Gajanan Kale, a Dharavi resident. Meanwhile, Shakat Ali, who runs a pan shop outside his Dharavi home, too, says he can’t wait anymore. “The process began in 2004 and we are yet on the stage of accepting plans. There are vested interests involved and there is no need for protests any more. We are happy with the government’s plans as the project will change the quality of our lives,” said Ali.The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) officials however maintain that the demand for 400 sq ft homes is unreasonable. Currently most of the residential quarters or slums are not more than 125-150 sq ft each. Several residents have made lofts, added extra floor to get extra floor space, which go unnoticed in slums. However these cannot be accommodated in the final plan as the homes are not officially more than 150 sq ft. In addition, the officials say the rehabilitation policy does not permit more than 269 sq ft yet the MHADA took the decision of allotting 300 sq ft with a balcony.“Incremental housing exists in the current scenario in the Dharavi slums, which does get affected in the new development plans. However we have balanced it out and given an extension of a balcony without compromising on the floor space index,” Gautam Chatterjee, vice-president of MHADA told DNA. He added, “We listed 28 occupations which are now conducted inside the slum premises. In the new plans I have ensured that the residents get extra open space and community centres to conduct these professions.”The tussle for power in Dharavi has begun and the battle lines drawn with the Congress promising that the project will take off soon. Congress MP Eknath Gaekwad has accused the Sena leaders of sabotaging the project, “The day after the announcement, MHADA officials had a meeting with the parties concerned and Sena leaders were present. They didn’t boycott the meeting then. The residents must realise the games Sena is playing. They are trying to sabotage an excellent project, which has already been delayed by 12 years,” said Gaekwad. He added, “It is evident none of the other parties want the Congress to take credit for launching this project but I ensure we will not delay the project any more.”Explaining MHADA’s plan, Chatterjee said, “We are creating spaces by innovative planning and designs. Further all decisions have been taken in a consultative process. The dialogue is not over and everyone concerned must come together.”

No comments: