In a city where half the population lives in shanties, the leitmotif of a “slum-free” Mumbai dominates the agenda of all parties, but not all offer a plan to generate affordable housing.
The Congress manifesto, which stresses the need to expand the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) to “cover all poor households” across 250 cities, keeps out Mumbai, which has the highest proportion of residents living in slums. The political will is to continue with the slum rehabilitation scheme (SRA) in Mumbai despite Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan stressing the need to scrap SRA in its current form.
Mumbai Congress president Janardhan Chandurkar said the state government has done its bit by extending SRA’s rehabilitation cutoff from 1995 to 2000 to protect 4 lakh additional hutments from demolition. “Our jurisdiction is only over slums on state and private land. If UPA 3 comes to power, our main concern for Mumbai would be extending SRA to the huge tracts of central land,” said Chandurkar. NCP state spokesperson Nawab Malik cites similar plans to make Mumbai slum-free solely through SRA.
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While SRA is modelled on providing free housing by allowing private developers to use the land, RAY requires the dwellers, the Centre and the state to contribute to the cost of construction. Launched 20 years ago by the Shiv Sena government with the stated purpose of rehabilitating 8 lakh families in five years, SRA has so far managed to rehouse just over a lakh families in four times that period.
While the Shiv Sena and the MNS have spoken in support of SRA, party leaders say their bone of contention is the extended cutoff. The Sena manifesto has said its candidates’ focus would be on getting more central funds for Mumbai. Mumbai South candidate Arvind Sawant said, “The Constitution allows free movement for people… but that doesn’t mean people can come and live in slums in Mumbai and expect us to provide them electricity and water. We have to amend laws to prohibit (this).”
The BJP’s Mumbai president, Ashish Shelar, said the party will prioritise freeing land currently under central agencies, and getting the environment ministry to ease coastal zone restrictions on construction and slum redevelopment.
The only party to explicitly spell out a plan for affordable housing is the AAP. Its separate manifesto for Mumbai has a larger role for MHADA, the development authority, in creation of affordable social housing, dormitories and rental housing. On SRA, AAP’s view is contrary to all other parties — slum redevelopment must be publicly funded through schemes such as RAY.