“We would like to see Mumbai become a slum-free city in the next ten years”
Sayyed Ahmed, Minister of State for Housing, Slum Improvement, House Repairs and Reconstruction, Aukaf in conversation with Manoj Mahanta, Highlights the achievements of the government in fulfilling the ‘Home For All’ dream of every individual.
ONE of the major problem? that the city of Mumbai is facing today is the rampant growth of slums. What measures is the government taking to tackle this menace?
At the time when the city of Mumbai was planned, it was a small island city stretching
across Colaba in the south and Sion in the north. Likewise, the infrastructure planned was aimed ' at meeting the requirements of approximately 37 lakh people (before independence). However, today the city has grown beyond Virar and Karjat and the population has grown to over1.25 crore. Unfortunately, the rate at which the population has grown, the city has not been able to keep pace with the changing .requirements. As a city, Mumbai has always been accommodating-one can find people from every region, religion and caste living here and they have all come in search of .employment. Lack of proper housing infrastructure has increased the number of slums in the city.
Now in order to stop the growth of the slums, the government has taken a strategic decision to issue photo-identity cards to all those slums that have been in existence before 1995.
What steps has your government taken in the area of slum rehabilitation and re-development?
Ideally, we would like to see Mumbai become a slum-free city in the next ten years. In order to achieve it, the government is aggressively implementing several slum rehabilitation and re-development schemes. Already, several tenants living in 'the city slums have benefited from it and more are likely to benefit from it in the near future. Unlike the earlier governments that gave flats of 120-sq. ft. or 160-sq. ft. under the slum rehabilitation scheme, we have taken a more humane approach to meet the requirements of the underprivileged. Our government is ensuring that people living in the slums are given flats of 225-sq. ft. inclusive of all the basic amenities like drinking water, lavatory, electricity, etc. You would be surprised to know that we have included the creation of balwadis in our on-going rehabilitation programs. In the slum rehabilitation scheme that is currently being implemented in the city of Mumbai, the flats are being given free of cost to the tenants of the slums.
As you have mentioned .that the flats are being given free of cost, how do you plan to make the' project a cost effective proposition?
Considering the economic perspective of the slum rehabilitation program it was decided that we involve private builders and developers to undertake the rehabilitation program in Mumbai. The government protects the interests of the builders/developers (offering additional FSI) and at the same time ensuring that the slum tenants get to own a home that has all the basic facilities. The slum rehabilitation programme has brought about a significant change in the lives of the slum dwellers. For instance ,in a places that were dominated by slums just a few years ago, one would today find huge - buildings. All through, we have kept the interest of the slum tenants in mind, for instance in some of the buildings that have more than five floors, we have ensured that lifts are provided.
Could you elaborate on the various housing development schemes that the state government is promoting?
It is not that we are concentrating only in the mega cities but equal attention is also being given to the housing problems in, the smaller towns and rural areas. For instance, in the towns and cities that have a population of more than 50,000 we are running the Lok Aawaas Scheme instead of the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme. In this scheme, the tenant has to deposit an amount of Rs 5,000 while the balance is contributed by the State government and Central government. In addition, there is another scheme called Nation Aawaas Scheme, under which if anybody gives us the land we develop the property and give it to the underpreviliged (those living below poverty line) We also have the Gram Nivaara Prakalp, whereby we are undertaking similar housing development projects in the rural parts of the state. The Gram Nivaara Prakalp is targeted at providing shelter to those families who come below the poverty line.
In an attempt to take the housing schemes to the -remote interiors of the state the government has recently introduced another scheme called Valmiki Ambedkar Aawaas Yojna. Under this scheme, the financial contribution of the State and the Central government towards each flat is 50 per cent each. (costing approximately Rs 80,000). Our effort is to ensure that without a shelter. We want every family to live in their ‘own house’, which is the reason why all our schemes are aimed at giving ownership to the tenant.
The city of Mumbai has several buildings that are in poor state. What efforts is the government making to improve their state?
Maharashtra is the only state in the country that has a Repair and Reconstruction Board to look into the dilapidated buildings and cater to their requirements. As per the 1969 Act, it is the responsibility of the government to develop these structures irrespective of whether the landlord cooperates or not. Also at the time of repair and reconstruction, we ensure that the tenants are given an alternative shelter in a transit camp. The repair or reconstruction is undertaker free of cost.
Could you share with, us some of the achievements of your department?
One of our greatest achievements in the recent past has been the rehabilitation of the slums located in the high-risk areas like the railway track, near the airport, etc. We have shifted more than 16,000 slums near the railway track and another 3,000 slums on the outskirts of the airport Rafiq Nagar to a more secure place in Dindoshi. We have offered 225, sq. ft. flats free of cost to the tenants, which if an individual goes to buy from the open market would cost anywhere between Rs 14-15 1akh.
What is the guiding principle of your department?
‘Home For The Poor' has always been apart of the Congress manifesto. Even our late Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi had made significant contributions in this area. For eg,, she had introduced the rule of providing basic amenities like toilets, drinking water, etc. for the poor and under-privileged. Later, when the Late Prime Minister Shri. Rajiv Garidhi set his feet in the Asia's largest slums (Dharavi), he offered Rs 100 crore for the rehabilitation of the slums. The state government has always worked to ensure that everyone in the state has a house of his own. Likewise, we are ensuring that the poor and the underprivileged get a house at a low cost or at no cost.
Are you happy with the achievements of your government over the last three years?
At the outset, we are committed towards completing the agenda as mentioned in our election manifesto. I take pride in saying that as a minister (last 18 months) I have managed to pass an important bill concerning the Photo Identity Card for slum dwellers. We have also got the cabinet's approval for the proposal of inviting slums to form societies whereby the government will give them land on lease for 30 years. Further, we have raised the existing height of the slums to 14 ft., after considering the size of the family and bask requirements of the tenant? living in the slums. Now we are in the process of changing the Rent Control Act so as to make accommodation in the city more affordable. We have been able to take forward quite a few housing policies especially so over the last 18 months. These policies seemed to have been put in the backburner for over a period of time due to lack of initiatives. Though the government is currently facing problems with regards to finance, we are trying our best to live upto the expectations of the masses.
To tackle the menace of increasing slums the state government is providing Photo Identity Cards to the slum dwellers.
THE increasing problem of migration into the state has resulted in lack of provisions, to the entire population. The problem of slums is a major hurdle in this scenario. In order to provide a solution to this, the government has made it mandatory for slum dwellers to have photo identity cards.
PHOTO IDENTITY CARD
Role of the Government:
• For the slum dwellers who are living in the city slums before 1st January, 1995, Photo Identity Cards is a proof of occupancy in the premises.
• Ideally, the government will not evacuate the residents of the city slums who carry photo identity cards. But, if the need arises the government holds the prerogative to displace and rehabilitate them at some other place.
• Based on the availability of the funds, the State Government will ensure that all the basic facilities are made available to the tenants, of the slums carrying photo identity card. Further, irrespective of whether the facilities are made available, it would be the duty of the tenants to regularly pay 'all their dues and taxes to the state government.
• As per the 1991 census, those towns and cities which have a population of over 50,000 and which have slums either on the government, land (state government land, Municipal land, MAHDA land or other semi-government institutions) or on private premises and stand to qualify under the Maharashtra Slum Rehabilitation and Development Act of 1971, will be considered for this scheme.
• Slums that have been existing before 1st January 1995 on the land belonging to the State Government or developmental projects promoted by the government, for instance play grounds, recreation grounds, parks, and other reserved public utility premises arid non-buildable land are eligible for the schemes.
• The slums that have been constructed on the city streets and footpaths are not eligible for the scheme. Though the state government will record their dwellings, yet they are riot likely to be eligible for the photo identity cards. Nonetheless, for those slums that exist on the city streets and satisfy all the rules laid down by the scheme, the government will not evacuate them, but if evacuated an alternative arrangements would be given.
• In cases where there exist 25 or less hutments in close vicinity, such slums do not qualify for the scheme.
• The slums that are already enjoying the benefits of the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme would not be eligible for the scheme.
•Those slums that are currently on the state government land and declared private, but fall under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), stand to qualify for the scheme.
• The names of the residents of the slums should have been included in the 1995 voter’s list. Further, the tenant of such slums should continue to reside in the same premises as mentioned in the records of the 1995 voter's list. Or
• In addition to the inclusion of the name residents of the slums should have been included in the 1995 voter's list. And he should be living in the slums that 'qualify under the scheme.
•If the premises is being used for religious, educational, commercial, industrial or non-residential purposes, the premises and the owner should have proof of his occupancy prior to 1st January 1995. The proof of occupancy should be in the form of a license from the governmental, semi-governmental or local self-governmental bodies or electricity bills, telephone bills, etc.
• Those slum tenants whose names are not included in the 1995 voter's list, but have
adequate proof to show that they have been residing in the premises even before, example -electricity bill, telephone bill, income tax certificate, ration card, etc. would be issued a photo identity card. Clauses
• Once this photo identity card is given to the slum tenants all the earlier identity cards that individuals hold will cease to be valid.
• In the first phas&, those slum , tenants who have premises in the region of 225-sq. ft. will be given photo identity cards on a priority basis. In cases where the tenants have premises that are bigger than 225sq. ft. the authorities will physically measure the premises and then give them an equal space (provided the new space will be a maximum of 500 sq. ft).
• Illegal permit room, beer bar, dancing bar, chemical godowns, polluting industries would not be given photo identity cards.
• In cases, where individual tenants have premises that are bigger than 500 sq.ft the government has a free will to take away the additional premises as and when it feels so. Nonetheless, the individual will continue to pay the combined cess on the premises held by him. The holding of the land by the slum tenants will, be measured and noted on the photo identity card.
• Those individuals who are living on the lofts and mezzanine floors of the slums are not eligible for the scheme.
• The photo' identity card given to an individual is non-transferable.
Charges for Photo Identity Card:
For slums residents which come under the Mumbai Municipal Corporation control or premises that are being used for religious, educational, health or cultural purposes the fees would be Rs 200: For slums that are being used for business and industrial purposes it will be Rs 800 and for premises that are being used for joint use Rs 600.
Manoj Mahanta, We would like to see Mumbai become a slum-free city in the next ten years, The Indian Express, Mumbai, 19 October 2002. [C.J10b.191002IE].