Finally, a solution in sight to ridding the city of at least some of its slums. The Central government is to shortly unveil a policy for rehabilitating slum dwellers settled on Central government land. The reason - the state's slum rehabilitation policy does not apply to Central government land and hence slum dwellers continue to languish there.
"We are studying the issue and are presently coordinating with all departments at the highest level," said Kumari Selja, Union minister of housing and urban poverty alleviation.
Her department is holding talks with various departments like railways, military establishments, Mumbai Port Trust, the central public works department and various Public Sector Units (PSUs).
Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the conclave on Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) organised at Malabar Hill on Tuesday, Selja said the motive was to resettle the slum dwellers and offer decent homes to them.
Currently, the state has given protection to all slums built before January 1, 1995.
However, this law does not apply to slums built on Central government land and as a result slum dwellers do not enjoy the resettlement benefits. In fact, the state also extended the cut-off date to the year 2000, but the decision was stayed by the court.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told the media that the state was awaiting a clear policy on slums that are currently on Central government land.
However, critics say such regularisation may only encourage the proliferation of slums. "There is no mechanism to control slums and free houses are a great incentive to continue to build more slums. Slums are more a vote bank for politicians," said Sreedhar Sharma, CEO, Ravathy Foundation, the NGO that works in the housing sector.
Eminent architect Baba Dalvi said such moves have the potential to boomerang.
"This will only encourage more slums as everyone would be attracted to the free houses given years down the line. The Central government has no mechanism by which it can control these slums," Dalvi said.