MbPT’s new policy may term slum dwellers on port land encroachers

  • Kunal Purohit, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 03, 2015 21:02 IST

In a controversial move, the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) is considering not having a year-based protection for slums on the port land, which entitles them to rehabilitation, in the new slum rehabilitation policy proposed to the government, said sources.

While the port land may be opened up for the city’s benefit, the question over the fate of the thousands who have been living in informal housing on these plots for years is unanswered. In its yet-to-be framed policy, instead of a date-based protection for slums, the MbPT plans to push the responsibility of the rehabilitation of slums on to the state government, citing lack of expertise.

In effect, such a move will end up terming all slum dwellers ‘encroachers’ and may rob them of a real chance of rehabilitation. Incidentally, the Rani Jadhav panel had asked the ministry to consider rehabilitation of all slums.

While there are no estimates on the number of slums existing on the land, a 2000 report by the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture, along with the Urban Development Research Institute (UDRI), had pegged the number of people living in informal housing at over 30,000. Activists working with slum communities say the number is two times more.

“We are very clear — we neither have the resources nor the mechanism to rehabilitate the slum dwellers. Hence, we will not offer any protection to them whatsoever,” said a senior port official, not wishing to be named.

Currently, there is no policy to govern the rehabilitation and redevelopment of slums that exist on the land owned by the Central government. As the ownership of the port land is with the shipping ministry, the state regulation on slums and the slum rehabilitation scheme apply to it.
The official said the port doesn’t have to follow the state’s cut-off of 2000 for legalising slums. “Hence, we will not have any such date. Rather, we will ask the state to see if they can rehabilitate the people instead.”

Port chairman Ravi Parmar confirmed such a policy was being drafted. “However, as we are yet to finalise it, it’s too early to discuss it.”
Activists, however, are aghast at the proposed move. “Firstly, the MbPT has to conduct a survey to identify the exact number of people living on the port land. Once this is done, it must come up with a holistic policy to house them in a way that their livelihoods are taken care of,” said Mayuresh Bhadsavle from Hamara Shaher Vikas Niyojan, a group which works closely with the communities.

Bhadsavle also drew similarities between the slums and Dharavi, in terms of their economic vibrancy.

“These slums have various entrepreneurial activities and have enormous economic value. These factors should figure in the new policy,” he said.
Historically, the port trust saw a lot of informal dwellings come up on its land as it became one of the largest job creators in
the city.

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