In a move that could stoke the debate on cut-off date for regularisation of slums, the state government on Friday ordered a fresh survey of slums built before 1995, to determine those eligible for free housing.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, in a meeting held to review the slum rehabilitation scheme in the city, ordered the Slum Rehabilitation Authority to prepare a list of slum dwellers eligible for rehabilitation based on the 1995 voters’ list.
However, the move has not gone down well with state officials and activists and has opened up a Pandora’s box of issues. Some officials feel basing the survey on the electoral roles would exclude many eligible slum dwellers. “This is a futile exercise. You cannot exclude someone just because they are not enrolled with the election commission,” said a senior official present at the meeting. In the past, 11 documents, such as passports, ration cards and driving licenses were used as proof to determine eligibility.
This order also puts a question mark on the state government’s stance on the issue of the cut-off date for regularisation of slums. The state had extended the cut-off date to 2000, but the move was opposed by the high court. The matter is now being heard in the Supreme Court. “The state should first clear this mess as every slum project is being affected by the deadline issue,” said Anand Gupta, secretary, Builders Association of India.
However, the state has defended the survey order, saying it would give them a clear picture of the exact number of slum dwellers eligible for free housing and would help determine the details of the land on which the slums have been built – state, central or civic. “It would be a comprehensive survey and help us accelerate the rehabilitation scheme,” said Sachin Ahir, minister of state for housing.
The slum rehabilitation scheme, which aims to provide free housing to eligible slum dwellers, has been marred by controversies ever since it came into place in 1997. Many argue that the scheme is exploited by builders for their vested interests and allegations have been made that builders fudge figures to boost profits.
“The survey is a futile exercise and would serve no purpose,” said Anil Galgali, an RTI activist. “Builders are ruling the roost and no action is being taken on the Tinaikar committee report, which has pointed to various flaws in the scheme,” he said.