Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022

Redeveloping central Mumbai’s chawls: the project and the politics

The Maharashtra government on Sunday held the second Bhoomi Pujan for the much-delayed redevelopment of Bombay Development Department (BDD) chawls. What are chawls? Why was this redevelopment initiated?

At a Chawl in Vikhroli (Express Photo by Deepak Joshi)

The Maharashtra government on Sunday (August 1) held the second Bhoomi Pujan for the much-delayed redevelopment of Bombay Development Department (BDD) chawls located in central Mumbai.

What are chawls?

A chawl is a group of one or two-room dwelling units along a corridor, sharing sanitary facilities. ‘Chawl’ or ‘chaal’ means a corridor or a passage in Marathi. A chawl building may be one-storied to five-storied. Sanitary facilities, mainly lavatories and sometimes bath and washing also, may be common to the residents on one floor or in the entire building. Dwelling units are arranged in a row on one side or both sides of the corridor or open court.

When were Bombay Development Department Chawls constructed?

The Bombay Development Department (BDD) was established in 1920 by the erstwhile British Government with the mandate to provide more land for housing as well as construction of tenements. It started constructing these chawls comprising of 150 sq.ft. single room tenements which were used to house migrant workers who largely worked in mills and the dock workers. The city presently has 195 BDD Chawls located at Worli, Naigaon and N M Joshi (Parel) which are spread over 86.98 acre, with the Worli BDD chawls occupying the maximum area of 59.69 acre in which close to 12000 families live. Out of the 195 BDD chawls, the maximum of 121 chawls are in Worli.

Why was there redevelopment initiated?

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The redevelopment of BDD chawls has been a long-standing demand of residents as the structures are in a precarious condition and are unsafe for occupancy. In 2017, the previous Devendra Fadnavis government started a Rs 16000 cr redevelopment drive which would give tenants, who stayed in 160 sq ft flats, 500 sq ft houses in the redeveloped project. The first Bhoomipujan for the project was done in April 2017. The plan was to utilise 68 % of the land for rehabilitation of the original tenants while the rest was to be given to private builders to build apartments for sale in the open market through which the project was to be funded.

Why was the project stuck?

Work on the project could not commence due to various planning and physical constraints. Several of those occupying these tenements were found to have transferred the rights from the original allottees without the mandatory permission. The previous government had allowed regularisation of transactions entered on or before June 28, 2017. In some places occupiers had refused to shift out of their apartments. Subsequently the contract awarded lapsed.

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What is the new proposal for redevelopment?


The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) is the nodal agency for the construction of the project which has been reinitiated by the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government. A consortium of Tata Projects and Capacite Infraprojects will undertake the Worli phase of the project that is expected to be completed in three years. It will construct a 40-storey building to house the residents. Work on other locations will begin subsequently.

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What is the political significance of announcing the redevelopment of these chawls now?

While the housing ministry is presently with the NCP, the localities where these chawls are located are deemed to be areas that traditionally support the Shiv Sena. The redevelopment announcement assumes political significance as it comes months before the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections slated to be held in early 2022. With the BJP keen on dislodging the Shiv Sena from the BMC, the announcement of the redevelopment is being seen as an attempt by the Sena to consolidate its support base.

First published on: 02-08-2021 at 01:23:57 pm
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