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Case revives hope of ‘dream home’ among Patra chawl’s former residents

With the project coming under spotlight with its link with the arrest of Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, Naik, now in his late 40s, along with 671 other tenants who have been fighting to reclaim their properties, are hoping that the stalled project with finally see the light of the day.

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Goregaon resident Sanjay Naik was in his early 30s when he vacated his accommodation in Patra Chawl, spread over 47 acres in Siddharth Nagar, as the area had to undergo “redevelopment”. At that time, he was assured that he would get his home back in three years’ time. Fourteen years on, Naik’s wait is far from over.

With the project coming under spotlight with its link with the arrest of Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, Naik, now in his late 40s, along with 671 other tenants who have been fighting to reclaim their properties, are hoping that the stalled project with finally see the light of the day.

“The project has been delayed and we are not even getting the rent that was promised to us. This project has increased our problems manifold,” says Naik, who stays close to the chawl in Goregaon (West) in a rented accommodation along with his family of six.

Residents had handed over their homes to the MHADA in 2008 for redevelopment of the project.

Naik and several others claimed that they had to mortgage their gold ornaments to afford the rent which they are not getting from MHADA and the developer as promised.

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A small-time real estate agent, Naik says with Rs 20,000 of his monthly income going in rent, it has been a struggle for him to cover the rest of household expenses. “We are all lower middle class people. Paying so much in rent becomes very difficult for us. The MHADA should do something and give us rent so that at least we can run our households properly,” says Naik, pointing out that the delay has been so long that his son, who was in Class 4 when he vacated his house, has now graduated from college.

Naik and 671 other tenants had handed over their homes to the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) in 2008 for redevelopment of the project. The authority, in turn, gave the contract to Guru Ashish Construction Private Limited (GACPL) to rehabilitate the tenants and to redevelop the locality. Subsequently, a tripartite agreement was signed between GACPL, the tenants’ society and MHADA for the redevelopment of Patra Chawl.

Residents had handed over their homes to the MHADA in 2008 for redevelopment of the project.

The residents say that as per the agreement, the developer was supposed to pay rent to all 672 tenants every month till the completion of the project. However, the rent was paid only till 2014-15. The project was later embroiled in the alleged scam involving the GACPL, stalling it for over six years. The work on the project was restarted only in February 2022.

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When The Indian Express visited the site where the Patra Chawl previously stood, the entire area was barricaded with almost no signs of construction activity.

Naresh Sawant, a tenant and member of the chawl’s cooperative society, said that hundreds of families who lived in the chawl are now scattered across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, travelling long distances to make a living in spite of having a state-promised home in a prime residential location.

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With the project coming under spotlight with its link with the arrest of Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, Naik, now in his late 40s, along with 671 other tenants who have been fighting to reclaim their properties, are hoping that the stalled project with finally see the light of the day.

“In Mumbai, one has to pay a minimum of Rs 20,000 for a 1-bhk. Many tenants can’t afford to pay such high rent since all are from middle class backgrounds and hence, they have shifted to neighbouring areas like Virar, Vasai, Nalasopara, Kalyan, Dombivali and Navi Mumbai. Some have even gone back to their villages and have left all hopes too,” says Sawant, adding that at least 100-150 residents have likely died over the last decade-and-a-half with their dream to own a home remaining unfulfilled.

The residents say that as per the agreement, the developer was supposed to pay rent to all 672 tenants every month till the completion of the project.

“It’s been over six years since the families received rent. We have been requesting MHADA but nothing has happened. When then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had restarted the work on the project in February 2021, the state government had announced that it will start the rent from March. It’s August 2022 now and no rent has come in yet,” says Sawant, adding that the issue has affected marriage prospects of a number of residents. “In case of a marriage, people want to know whether the groom has his own house or not. In our case, we own a house but can’t show one,” he says.

On the arrest of Raut, Rajesh Dalvi, chairman of Patra Chawl co-operative housing society, says, “We, as tenants, are not interested in the politics that is being played. We are only concerned about rent, homes and the commitments, which had been given to us in the agreement we had with the state. We have faced a lot over the last 14 years. The families have faced immense hardship. We hope whatever is happening now brings some sort of closure to this issue.”

First published on: 02-08-2022 at 12:38:57 am
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