SLUM DWELLERS who have encroached upon railway land in Mumbai and suburbs may be rehabilitated under the slum rehabilitation scheme, railway officials said on Friday.
According to officials, as Railways doesn’t have a policy to rehabilitate slum dwellers — it can neither rehabilitate encroachers on its own nor appoint any private developer to do the same — if the Maharashtra government wants to implement a rehabilitation scheme on a railway plot, it has to sign a lease agreement with the RLDA (Railway Land Development Authority).
A meeting in this regard was held between Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) officials and Union MoS Ramdas Athavale on Thursday. Following this, Athavale told The Indian Express that the plan of handing over encroached plots of Railways to the Maharashtra government was discussed at the meeting.
“A primary proposal has been sent to RLDA… A meeting will now be held in Delhi between Railway board officials and RLDA,” he said, adding that he will soon he meet Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in this regard. Later, RLDA and railway board officials would meet to take a final call.
On December 14, 2019, The Indian Express had reported that in a meeting with Athavale in Delhi, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal has suggested that the state government could take encroached plots from the Railways and bring them under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to rehabilitate slum dwellers. Goyal had also spoken about the MoU signed between the state government and RLDA for the Dharavi redevelopment scheme.
According to official records, in Mumbai and its central suburbs, 55 hectare owned by WR have been encroached upon by slum dwellers. On the other hand, CR’s 37-hectare area have been encroached. In all, around 25,000 slum dwellers reportedly stay in these plots.
“Money is needed to purchase 55 hectare and currently that is the biggest issue in front of the government,” Athavale said. He added: “It has been suggested to the state government that it could initially sign a MoU with RLDA. Later, when private developers step forward to redevelop any plot, the government can ask it to pay a certain price.”
On March 21, 2017, the Railways had written to CR and WR to identify their surplus land and also the encroaches living there. “Surplus land of various organisations/agencies of central government to be made available for achieving objectives of housing for all 2022,” the letter had said, adding that rehabilitation of slum dwellers on railway land was not possible in the absence of a scheme for the same.
Following an inter-state council meeting, on August 29, 2017, the railway board had given a no objection certificate to the SRA to carry out a biometric survey of those encroaching upon railway land. In a survey that was completed on November 18, 2019, the SRA had found 5,964 slum units on railway plots in various parts in the city, including Kurla, Dharavi, Chembur and Borivali.