With the state set to extend the slum cut-off date for the third time, it has come to light that barely 1.53 lakh slumdwellers have been rehabilitated since the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) came into being in 1996.
Official statistics reveal that just over 13 per cent redevelopment projects — 199 out of 1,524 — have so far been completed. About 215 projects are stalled, while another 1,100 are still being developed.
When Shiv Sena supremo (late) Bal Thackeray announced the SRA model, Mumbai had 40 lakh slum families. Though the idea was to rehabilitate all of them, less than 4 per cent of slum families have been moved into planned dwellings so far. As per the latest slum census, Mumbai now has 55 lakh slum families.
The government’s cut-off politics might have to shoulder the blame. At a recent meeting, senior SRA officials said a majority of stalled redevelopment projects were the ones where the percentage of ineligible slumdwellers was over 50 per cent.
Activist Simpreet Singh echoed this view. “Extending the cut-off is just an appeasement solution. It hampers effective implementation of slum redevelopment schemes,” Singh said. “Most slum colonies have a mix of eligible and ineligible residents. The ineligible ones often oppose redevelopment plans of the other group. Even before a developer emerges on the scene, an internal conflict has already arisen.”
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With elections approaching, the state government has decided to extend slum cut-off from January 1, 1995 to January 1, 2000. In 1991, the cut-off was first fixed at 1985, this was later extended to 1995. While Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan denied claims that “the extension was an election sop”, activists said it was a poll gimmick. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Lok Sabha candidate and activist Medha Patkar also slammed the government.
The senior state official said over the years, the government has tried everything from hiking floor space index and allowing transfer of development rights (TDR) in high density slum pockets to incentivise redevelopment.
Singh, however, believes that the solution lies in getting rid of the cut-off. “All slums must be rehabilitated but this dwelling must not be offered free-of-cost as is done today,” Singh said.
Amita Bhide, head, Centre of Urban Planning, Policy and Governance in School of Habitat Studies of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), believes that “a more inclusive approach of rehabilitation is the key”.
She said, “Unless we have a fix on how slums emerge, extending cut-off dates will be an arbitrary measure.” Bhide added, “Roughly 30 per cent of slum dwellings are let out to other people. Redevelopment schemes lack provisions that make the distinction between people who own hutments and those who reside on rent.”
While the SRA has pointed out to the government that restrictions imposed on development of slums occupying plots reserved for playgrounds and recreation grounds, and those affected by coastal regulation zones were discouraging development, activists have blamed “developer-friendly approach and lack of effective monitoring” for the mess.
Singh said, “The approach has been to maximise profits of developers in the guise of slum redevelopment.” Singh said Gujarat has introduced a provision where developers for slum rehabilitation are selected directly by the government through a tender process. “Gujarat has also put in place a revenue sharing arrangement to ensure that developers do not profiteer,” Singh said.