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Shanties to be razed this week,shifting of families in progress

With the proposed rehabilitation of slumdwellers squatting on 276 acres at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport still awaiting a key decision on who is eligible for free rehousing,the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has instead decided to fast-track the Sahar elevated road project,which also includes the rehabilitation of nearly 700 slumdwellers.

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai |
September 23, 2011 12:32:16 am

With the proposed rehabilitation of slumdwellers squatting on 276 acres at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport still awaiting a key decision on who is eligible for free rehousing,the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has instead decided to fast-track the Sahar elevated road project,which also includes the rehabilitation of nearly 700 slumdwellers. Demolitions of these shanties is scheduled to begin later this week.

While 45 families affected by the 2-km elevated road project have moved over the past two months into the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) slum rehabilitation colony built by HDIL in Kurla,allotment letters have been handed over to more than 200 other families in Bamanwada and Rajaramwadi in Vile Parle. They are set to shift in the coming weeks to Kurla and a few to other rehabilitation colonies.

Metropolitan Commissioner Rahul Asthana said the flyover and elevated road project are almost complete,barring a small section of the flyover and the ramp,which is why the rehabilitation of these slumdwellers is being undertaken on a priority basis. “The elevated road project will give those entering Mumbai from the international airport a much better experience,connecting straight from Sahar to the Western Express Highway,” Asthana said.

As many as 200 of the 700 families deemed ineligible for free rehousing based on current eligibility criteria are being given homes in Oshiwara,in what is being termed transit accommodation for now until the criteria for ‘transfer cases’ is fixed by the state government.

The term ‘transfer cases’ refers to slumdwellers living in structures built before January 1,2000,but which they purchased after that cut-off date. A rough estimate of 15 per cent of airport slumdwellers fall in this category and their interests have been sought to be protected by various politicians,including local Congress legislator and Guardian Minister for Suburbs Arif Naseem Khan.

A decision to extend protection to structures built before 2000 regardless of when the current occupant purchased the shanty is likely,but awaiting Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s nod.

Also,while the Sahar elevated road project may be administered separately,these slum pockets in Vile Parle are also on airport land,contiguous with other pockets not affected by the road and flyover project. “There is naturally much confusion caused by the decision to start demolitions for the elevated road project while the issue of the transfer cases is pending,” said Parag Alavani,former BJP corporator,who has been approached by several slumdwellers for advice.

“Those who remain ineligible after the new criteria are fixed will have to be evacuated from the transit camps and nobody wants to move in such uncertainty,” he said. That the slumdwellers want to move to Kurla,where 18,000 tenements have been constructed,has also complicated the issue for MMRDA officials trying to persuade them to move into the Oshiwara building.

The families affected by the Rs 287-crore elevated road project together comprise the first batch of nearly 80,000 airport slumdwellers to be rehoused in what is the largest such urban rehabilitation project in the country. Meanwhile,a key survey to enumerate shantydwellers occupying the 276 acres that are encroached remains incomplete,continuing to be stalled by residents’ organisations and local activists.

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