The Maharashtra government on Thursday rolled out a new plan to take Mumbai towards a slum-free status. Under this plan, over 18 lakh slum dwellers residing in slum tenements, that came up between 2000 and 2011, have now been guaranteed a replacement house. However, it will not be for free. All these residents would need to pay for the new housing using the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana’s interest subvention scheme. On Thursday, the state’s housing department issued a government resolution entitling all those residing in slum tenements existing prior January 1, 2011 for a replacement house. Earlier, on April 20 President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the modifications that the Maharashtra legislature had proposed to the Maharashtra Slum Act, 1971, to facilitate such a move.
Incidentally, the notification issued on Thursday states that the concession was also being extended to such hutment dwellers, who had earlier been evicted after being found ‘ineligible’ for rehabilitation in ongoing slum redevelopment schemes. According to the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), more than 62 lakh people — or one-half of the city’s population — resides in 12.5 lakh slum tenements, collectively spread over just 8 per cent of Mumbai’s geographical area.
The Mumbai slum-free plan was kicked off in 1995, with the then Shiv Sena-BJP led government entitling hutments that had come up prior January 1, 1995 to a free replacement house. The Congress-NCP-led government later changed this cut-off date for free housing to January 1, 2000. With almost every second city resident living in a slum, government sources admitted that the proposal will have a major impact on the city’s social fabric and the infrastructure. Presently, only those residents of slums in dwelling units that are protected because they were there before January 1, 2000, are entitled for free rehabilitation in a redevelopment scheme.
Now, on the basis of the Centre’s ‘Housing for All’ initiative, the government has proposed two separate rehabilitation components in a slum redevelopment scheme. While residents living in pre-2000 dwelling units will remain eligible for free replacement house, those that have come up between 2000 and 2011 will be entitled to a highly subsidised paid for accommodation. Apart from the new beneficiary slum dwellers, the move will also come as a bonanza for slum developers, with the government also extending the sale incentives for in-situ accommodation of such ‘non-protected’ hutment dwellers in ongoing schemes. The existing norm of permitting a developer a sale incentive proportionate to the built-up area used for the rehabilitation of slum dwellers has also been extended for new slum rehabilitation component, confirmed a senior official.
Just as the government has justified the new move stating that it would make slum redevelopment projects more inclusive, questions are being raised even in the state’s bureaucracy over the “serious strain of the infrastructure” and the “densification of the slum pocket” that it may inflict. In the recent past, the Bombay High Court, too, had hit out at the state government following the revision of the cut-off date to 2000, stating that it’ll severally impact Mumbai’s already creaking infrastructure. But a senior official said, “The modification will ensure that the date of a slum dweller’s entry into a slum does not establish whether he can benefit from the state’s help in getting a formal house as and when the slum is redeveloped.”
To become eligible for a subsidised replacement house, a slum dweller, occupying such a structure, will have to submit proofs showing that the hutment had been in existence before January 1, 2011. He’d further have to provide evidence showing he has been residing in it prior 2011. In cases where documents validating his own occupation of the hutment before 2011 are unavailable, the state has permitted the submission of a valid identity proof of a later date, along with an Aadhaar card and a self-declaration from the beneficiary, announcing that he has been occupying it since before 2011.
In the case of ongoing redevelopment schemes where the hutments have been razed, it has said that the eligibility list (Annexure-2), drawn up by the SRA, could be used to identify the ‘non-protected’ hutment dwellers, who are entitled to the benefit. Further, SRA’s Chief Executive Officer has been directed to compile a list of all such probable beneficiaries. Those who cannot be accommodated in ongoing schemes will feature in a waiting list, and would remain eligible for a paid replacement house anywhere within SRA’s jurisdiction. The state has also directed the SRA to form a separate cell for finalisation of the rules for the implementation of the new rehabilitation component. Unlike those benefiting from free housing, slum dwellers offered homes under the paid housing model won’t be required to maintain a 10-year “lock-in” period, where the allotted home cannot be sold. But the government has said that they won’t be eligible for applying for another replacement house in slum redevelopment schemes. The government has also directed the SRA to do a mapping exercise and physical inspection of the hutment sites, to ensure that the new scheme is not misutilised for undue gains.
In another move that could impact the infrastructure, the government is actively considering a plan to increase the minimum size of a rehabilitation tenement from 269 square feet at present to 300 square feet. A high-level committee has been set up to look into this aspect. Some other modifications, also introduced to the Slum Act, will further ensure enhancement of the slum redevelopment footprint in the commercial capital. Besides the dwelling unit, the government has also proposed to identify the “economic activity” area within a slum as part of the redevelopment project. While officials have argued that this was being done to protect the livelihood occupation of a slum dweller, sources said that this would further increase the buildable area rights granted to a developer.
Mumbai’s new development plan has also rolled out several new concessions for slum developers, including an overall increase in floor space index for such schemes. In more than two decades since Mumbai’s slum-free plan took off, only 1.8 lakh replacements homes have come up, despite the SRA approving over 1,500 projects.