A ‘slum’ tag will no longer be a pre-requisite for planning slum redevelopment schemes in Maharashtra. In a contentious move, Maharashtra’s new slum redevelopment plan — which secured the Legislative Assembly’s nod on Wednesday — allows the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to accept or propose redevelopment scheme even for lands not previously declared as a slum.
Under existing provisions of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance, and Redevelopment) Act, 1971, a land has to be formally notified as a ‘slum’ by the government before formulation of a redevelopment project on it. It has to be found unfit for human habitation due to overcrowding or lack of basic amenities to be declared a slum. Hearing conducted by the government for declaration of a land as a slum are often hotly contested by local residents.
The Assembly on Wednesday modified provisions of the Act allowing the SRA to even accept rehabilitation schemes for areas occupied by ‘censussed’ slums where no such declaration has been made. It simply means that builders can now take up SRA schemes on any land where slum-like dwelling structures exist, regardless of whether they fit the ‘unfit for human habitation criteria’.
The government’s move comes at a time when an SRA probe panel had questioned approvals granted by ex-SRA chief Vishwas Patil to eight SRA projects — seven in Mumbai (suburbs) and one in Central Mumbai — on lands which had not been declared slums yet. The contentious move has major implications for Mumbai where every second resident lives in a slum. It also comes at a time when SRA’s plan to implement redevelopment schemes in a few fishing villages (Koliwadas) has been contested.
Incidentally, the Assembly unanimously voted in favour of the move, even as the law department has termed the move “legally inappropriate”. This was being done to expedite slum redevelopment projects, argued government sources. Concerns are also being raised that the contentious move would provide an escape route for private builders to subvert restrictions imposed by the Bombay High Court on construction activity, citing lack of adequate solid waste disposal facilities.
“Under the new provision, a private land owner or a developer can formulate an SRA scheme on an encroached land,” confirmed sources. The HC order has not applied the restrictions to slum redevelopment.
The new plan has also newly proposed accommodation of even non-protected slum dwellers (those residing in dwelling units constructed post January 1, 2000) existing up to January 1, 2011 in the slum rehabilitation scheme, which was also opposed by the law department. But Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said this was being done to make slum redevelopment projects more inclusive and viable. There is also a plan to include lands used for traditional occupation by slum dwellers in the ‘slum’ area allowing builders incentives for their redevelopment as well.
Slum schemes in Mumbai are already seen as a goldmine for developers. While the objective of a ‘slum-free’ Mumbai has not been achieved, several builders have constructed luxury towers in the sale component of such schemes utilising buildable area perks showered by the government, sources contended. Meanwhile, land owners of private encroached lands would now get 120 days to initiate a redevelopment scheme once their land is notified as a slum, failing which the SRA has made provisions to acquire the land and implement the scheme on its own.