The murder on Monday of a slum dweller in Versova who refused to sign the consent form for a Slum Rehabilitation Authority project has once again put the SRA scheme in the spotlight.
The slum clearance scheme was unveiled in 1996 to get rid of slums in Mumbai by providing decent accommodation to slum-dwellers. However, it came under flak as it was said to be heavily loaded in favour of builders.
Under the SRA scheme, builders needed to pay just 25% of the ready reckoner rate of the area as premium for the land. This led to a scramble among builders to bag SRA projects, as land prices are valued in hundreds of crores.
“Builders are getting the land virtually free and hence use all possible tactics to bag the project,” said Amit Maru, a Right to Information (RTI) activist who recently exposed a scam in the first such scheme undertaken in the city at Andheri.
An SRA project can go ahead only if it has the consent of 70 per cent of the slum-dwellers. According to critics of the scheme, developers resort to various means to reach the magical 70% figure. “Committee members are bribed and tenants coerced to sign. Dissenters are just weeded out,” said Simpreet Singh, convenor, Ghar Banao Ghar Bachao Andolan, an NGO that takes up the rights of slumdwellers.
He cited the example of Golibar Nagar at Santacruz, where a builder was accused of forging signatures of slumdwellers to bag the project.
“The slum schemes are being run by the mafia and the main aim is to help builders make money on public land,” said Singh. In another project, a builder was accused of listing his relatives as slum dwellers to show more slums.
However, the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) does not agree. “We have various safeguards in the scheme and it is not possible to force 70 per cent people to sign,” said S S Zende, chief executive officer, SRA. “We rely on written consent and photographic evidence. Only then do we give permissions,” he said.
Builders defend the scheme saying it is an ideal way to provide decent houses to slum dwellers and also generate handsome housing stock. “It is a self-financing scheme where the state can achieve its aim of a slum-free city without having to incur any cost,” said Babulal Verma, chairman and managing director, Omkar Realtors Private Limited, which is currently rehabilitating 25,000 slum-dwellers across the city.