After 12 years of uncertainty and controversy, the state government has finally broken ground on the Dharavi redevelopment project. Work has begun on the construction of 344 apartments in Sector 5 of the slum.
“We have started construction. Piling work is going on at the moment,” said Sachin Ahir State minister for housing.
The Rs. 15,000-crore revamp project, which aims to turn India’s largest slum into a plush township, has had its share of setbacks. Last month, locals led by the Shiv Sena stopped the Maharashtra Housing And Area Development Authority (Mhada) from conducting the Bhoomi Pujan or inauguration ceremony, claiming the state was not meeting demands put forth by residents.
Still unconvinced, opponents have now said they won’t let the project come to fruition till locals are taken into confidence. “They had started the digging work, but we reached the spot and stopped it,” said Baburao Mane, former Sena legislator. “We will allow it to continue if we are promised bigger houses and a higher corpus fund.”
Despite this, Mhada officials appear to have stood their ground. “We are serious about the project and will make it happen,” Ahir said.
Dharavi has been divided into five sectors and the state government has assigned the redevelopment of Sector 5 to Mhada.
In what could be seen as a cautious start, work will be undertaken in only seven of the 62 hectares in Sector 5, which is incidentally vacant land owned by the housing body itself. Mhada plans to construct the tenements and shift existing residents to the new houses.
On the locals’ demand, an official who did not wish to be named said, “We are giving them what is legally permissible. These people just want to politicise the issue.”
It’s been a bumpy ride for the project, which had once attracted 101 builders, a number that dwindled to 19 and settled at 7. Two years ago, the state decided to cancel all tenders and assign Sector 5 to Mhada.