Mumbai will need Rs 55,000 crore if it has to target each and every slum over the next ten years under the central government’s flagship slum-free cities scheme Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), according to estimates drawn up by the state government.
The amount is required to reconstruct a total of 11 lakh slum households in the city as per latest Census figures. RAY was launched with the intention of reconstructing slum settlements in all Indian cities with more than one lakh population so as to have a ‘slum-free India’ by 2022.
For a city that has the highest percentage of slum-dwelling households among metros, RAY has remained a non-starter in Mumbai over the past three years that it has been in force. The city hasn’t even kick-started the initial preparatory stage for RAY which requires chalking out a detailed socio-economic profile of shanties that will be integrated with their Geographical Information System (GIS). In comparison, data from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA) shows that metros such Bangalore and Kolkata have gone way past the initial stages and started construction of houses so have tier II cities such as Kochi, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Patna, Indore and several others which are all in the implementation phase with the total number of ongoing projects under RAY standing at 166.
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In the case of cities with over five lakh population, the scheme requires the state government and the beneficiary to bear 25 per cent of the cost of construction each while the central government will pitch in the remaining 50 per cent. “We have sent our estimates to the finance department. However considering the extent of funds required, we doubt if the state government will be willing to budget for its share of Rs 13,000 crore required over the next decade,” said a senior official from the state housing department.
In fact, MHUPA data shows that barring the union territories and a few North-Eastern states, Maharashtra is the only state where the scheme’s progress report draws a blank. Half of the 22.40 lakh slums in Maharashtra are in Mumbai. However, the state government has been more inclined to allow projects under the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRA) wherein builders rehabilitate those living in pre-2000 slums in city in return of being allowed to commercially exploit the remaining land. RAY, on the other hand eliminates the builder’s role and considers every slum dweller living on the land at the time of carrying out the survey as eligible.
Nearly 3,200 families of the Mandala slums in Mankhurd, under the aegis of activist Medha Patkar’s Ghar Banao Ghar Bachao Andolan, had submitted a proposal to the state under RAY. The project, wherein Mandala residents will bear their share of the costs for constructing homes on 13 acres of 45 acres of waste land, is awaiting clearance by the state for several years now.
“The state has no answers as to why it can’t allow the project to go ahead,” said Patkar on whose intervention former union housing minister Ajay Maken had written to CM Prithviraj Chavan asking the latter to implement the scheme in Mumbai. “The government claims there are no vacant plots other than salt-pan lands whereas we have submitted a proposal pointing out that there are 30,000 acres in Mumbai up to Bhayander readily available with the government under the Urban Land Ceiling Act,” said Patkar. She added that Mumbai has received Rs 1 crore from the centre for starting work on RAY but nothing has been spent for the scheme so far other than on putting up banners hailing RAY in the run -up to the general elections.