The Bombay high court, on Monday, dismissed a public interest litigation filed by two Dharavi residents, and allowed the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) to go ahead with development of Sector 5 of the slum. However, the state government has said it would wait for the results of the "pilot project" before it extends the scheme to the entire 377 acres of the slum. This is likely to push the much-delayed redevelopment of Asia's largest slum even further.
The petitioners, Anand Honkeri and Shaukat Khan, had approached the high court through advocate Ashutosh Kulkarni, seeking orders to expedite redevelopment of the slum that houses approximately 69,000 families. They also challenged the government's decision to cancel the earlier bidding process and hand over one of the nine sectors to Mhada on an experimental basis.
Rajani Iyer, counsel for the petitioners, argued that Mhada had no in-house expertise and resources, including finance required for implementing the re-development scheme. The advocate pointed out that the housing authority would, in turn, be required to invite fresh bids and give contract to some private developer, which would delay the project further.
The judges, however, felt that the housing authority always stood on a higher footing as compared to private developers and there was no harm if the government showed faith in a public authority that has executed several public housing schemes in the city.
In response to the PIL, an affidavit filed by Sambhaji Dhapate, an under-secretary in the housing department, says: "The decision to hand over sector 5 to Mhada is considered as pilot project and only thereafter the state government will be in a position to consider the redevelopment of the rest of the area."
However, since the project has been delayed by eight years, development of the small sector by Mhada on an experimental basis would delay the re-development of the remaining eight sectors, since the housing authority would have to start from scratch.