Eight years after the Dharavi rehabilitation project was conceived, the government’s plan to finally put it in motion met with resistance in the form local residents, who disrupted the bhoomi pujan — a ritual that would have marked the beginning of work on the project.
On Thursday, local residents led by the Shiv Sena disrupted the ceremony and forced the authorities to cancel the programme which was being held at an empty plot in the PMG colony.
Approximately 5,000 residents gheraoed the programme venue early in the morning and started shouting slogans against the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada). They entered the pandal, asked the priest and others to leave the venue and forced organisers to pull down the scaffolding.
“We will not let a single brick be laid till our demands are met,” said former Sena legislator Baburao Mane.
The residents’ grouse is that they want 400-square feet houses instead of the 300-square feet houses that have been planned. They also want a corpus of Rs10 lakh per family, a demand that has been rejected by the state government.
Under the project, 23 hectares of the 62-hectare sector 5 were to be redeveloped and residents of 9,300 hutments were to be rehabilitated there.
Residents are angered by the fact that the project hardly involves them. “When both the government and builders will make a killing on this land, which we nurtured for years, why are they not sharing the benefits with us?” said Mane. “Our concern is that although every household runs a small business fromo within their house, the revamp plan does not make provisions to preserve their livelihood.”
Mhada meanwhile defended its plan. “We will go ahead with the mandate as specified by the state government and start the construction,” said Niranjan Kumar Sudhanshu, chief officer (slum board), Mhada. “We will inform the police department and demand protection.”