Dealing a blow to the aspirations of over a lakh mill workers who were retrenched in course of the debilitating textile strike of the mid 1980s, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) is set to triple the rates of its 269 sq ft homes for all such workers.
In June 2012, when MHADA held its first lottery for allotment of 6,925 homes in erstwhile mill land plots of South Central Mumbai, the modest homes were priced at Rs 7.5 lakh. The selling price will now be upward of Rs 20 lakh, according to the state housing department.
NK Sudhanshu, MHADA’s Mumbai Board chief officer, said since the last lottery the housing board had made a request before the state government to increase the selling price of the apartments to Rs 15.6 lakh. “The price was arrived at through a formula that was justified in view of the rising cost of construction. This is evident even in the the government’s annual statement of rates. The increased rate was approved by a committee under the chief secretary,” said Sudhanshu adding that the rates will have to be revised upwards once again.
Sources in the Housing department said that it may go up to as high as Rs 22 lakh. “If we take into account the Rs 2 lakh subsidy that is received per house under the central government’s Basic Services For Urban Poor (BSUP), the final sale price can be brought down to at most Rs 20 lakh,” said the official.
Retrenched mill-workers will have to bear the brunt of increased costs despite the fact that just on the eve of the recent assembly elections, the Prithviraj Chavan-led Urban Development department had exempted MHADA-appointed contractor BG Shirke Construction from paying the premium amount on fungible floor space index (FSI) for mill worker housing projects. The BMC is allowed to charge a premium at 60 per cent of the ready reckoner rates in exchange of allowing an additional 35 per cent fungible FSI in residential projects. The housing board had sought an exemption citing the need to keep the sale price down.
As per an earlier mill land sharing formula, the housing board was to received 80 hectares of land for mill workers’ and public housing. However the Vilasrao Deshmukh government allowed mill owners to keep much of the land, shrinking MHADA’s share to merely 11 hectares. The land paucity has also forced the housing board to build 24 storey towers instead of the usual seven storey buildings that are meant for mass housing projects, catapulting the construction costs and thereby the sale price.
“Already, of the total 1.48 lakh former mill workers from 58 defunct, only 40,000-odd workers from 18 mills got to participate in the last lottery as the remaining mills did not hand over a portion of their land to MHADA as required of them. Our union will raise the issue of the high rates with the new government and we hope that they take a more reasonable approach,” said Praveen Ghag, general secretary of the Girni Kamgaar Sangharsh Samiti.
After a protracted wait following the closure of Mumbai’s famed textile industry, migrant workers from Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri regions of Konkan region stayed on in Mumbai doing odd jobs due to lack of livelihood options back home while those from the Western Maharashtra regions of Satara, Sangli, Pune, Kolhapur, Solapur as well as from Ahmednagar went back farming in their villages. “Today the complications, regarding the rightful heirs in cases where original mill workers have died or the problem with tracing their correct addresses, has meant that even of the 6,925 homes released in the last lottery, possession has been handed over in only 5,000-odd cases,” said Ghag.