Saturday, Nov 01, 2014

‘We could have sped up environmental clearances… PM could have stepped in’

Maharashtra Cm Prithviraj chavan. Maharashtra Cm Prithviraj chavan.
Posted: April 27, 2014 12:25 am | Updated: April 27, 2014 8:38 am

Moderated by: P VAIDYANATHAN IYER

He dismisses Narendra Modi’s campaign as a marketing exercise, but Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan admits that there’s a strong challenge posed by the BJP’s presidential-like electioneering. In this Idea Exchange moderated by P VAIDYANATHAN IYER, Editor (Mumbai), Chavan advocates prohibiting regional parties from contesting national polls and defends himself against charges of being overcautious on land issues.

P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: Why should people vote for the Congress-NCP alliance which has not taken care of basic needs like housing for a large section of Mumbai’s common public?

Given the lack of availability of land, Mumbai’s housing challenge is greater than any other city’s in the country. In 1996 (when the Shiv Sena-BJP was in power), the government had promised people they would give them free houses, which incentivised them to come and live in slums. We attempted to rebuild the slums through redevelopment process. The Slum Rehabilitation Authority guidelines were faulty and involved giving a free house to relocate everybody in situ.

Solving such a problem requires a huge political will, because the moment you touch anything like this, it is deemed as anti-poor or anti-slums. What I am trying to do now is bring in transparency and a level playing field, which till now was skewed, and allowing regulatory capture of the system. Secondly, the value that is locked in Mumbai’s land needs to be unlocked and come back into the government’s coffers. We are contemplating a policy wherein the state acts as a developer and takes the excess money that is locked in land and also allows private contractors to build as per a design worked out by the state.

SHUBHANGI KHAPRE: How realistic is the government decision to extend the cut-off date on regularisation of slums?
The January 1, 1995, deadline was due to some poll decision. The government later promised to extend this to January 1, 2000. Instead of getting into whether the date was correct or not, I went by the fact that this was a commitment made by us not once but twice. There are concerns as to whether the move will cause further congestion. I think it won’t. We are trying to convert singlestorey hutments on an extremely costly piece of land into a mutli-storey tower and the land will be free for commercial development.

P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: Many blame you for an overcautious approach on land issues.
The Supreme Court has issued guidelines after the Adarsh incident, wherein it has tied the hands of the government. Secondly, the Congress had given a call to do away with discretion. So, many discretionary land allotments were stopped. Moreover, after the RTI Act, every government official is cautious.

SANDEEP ASHAR: The Congress claims that it has acted against its tainted leaders but gives tickets to the same people.
This is a moral dilemma. Once you perceive a person as guilty, you condemn him forever and don’t give him any recourse in the future. continued…

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