In order to pre-empt the speculative buying of pre-2000 shanties set to be regularised, the state government will soon issue orders to ensure that only those who can provide proof of their stay in the shanty for at least a year, and not the absentee owners, are entitled to free housing.
However, this would also in effect allow anyone who buys a regularised slum structure anytime in the future and furnishes proof of his stay for just a year to get free housing.
The state government is expected to soon issue a government resolution listing the types of documents occupiers will have to produce as proof of their stay in a pre-2000 slum. “With the slum rehabilitation (SRA) cut-off date being extended, it is not uncommon to find cases where a single person has invested in multiple authorised structures with the intention of getting several free apartments when the slum cluster is taken up for rehabilitation. Making proof of a year-long stay mandatory will ensure only genuine occupiers get the benefit,” said Sachin Ahir, Minister of State for Housing.
Ahir said the state housing department was drawing up a list of documents that could be furnished as proof of stay, some of which include voter ID card, school admission papers, bank documents, electricity or telephone bill and passport.
Under the original SRA policy, not only did the slum structure have to be in existence prior to the cut-off year of 1995 but the occupier too was required to have stayed in it before the cut-off year. Early this year, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress-NCP alliance government introduced the transfer policy protecting anyone who purchased an regularised structure at any point of time provided he paid a transfer fee of Rs 40,000 to the government. This was followed by a legislation amending the slum Act whereby all hutments that have come up before 2000 were regularised. The new law regularised four lakh slum structures in the state, of which 3.25 lakh are in Mumbai alone, triggering a buying spree among investors who started purchasing such structures from slum residents. While there are no records available yet on the extent of such speculative buying, a government-commissioned survey by the NGO Maharashtra Social Housing & Action League (MASHAL) in Dharavi showed that on the back of similar pre-election announcements of largesse with regards to the Dharavi Redevelopment Project in 2009, over 5,000 shanties were bought over by investors within a span of four to five months that year.
“The verification method we are devising may still have its shortcomings but at least if an occupier is genuine, and not merely an investor, he will weave his life around his address, which will be reflected in bank account details, school admission papers or ration card,” said a senior state government official. Under the Maharashtra Slum Areas Act 1971, the occupier, even if he is only living in the slum structure by paying a rent, becomes eligible for a house on ownership basis once the structure goes under redevelopment. “The absentee owners won’t get anything but the burden of proof lies on the occupier and he has to provide documentary evidence before the annexure II for redevelopment of the slum is certified,” said the official.