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After promise, BIT chawls await action

For 73-year-old Bhagwan Pundalik Naik, the talk of redeveloping BIT chawls brings anxiety.

india Updated: Jul 08, 2010 03:08 IST
Parvathi Ramanathan & Kunal Purohit
Parvathi Ramanathan & Kunal Purohit
Hindustan Times

For 73-year-old Bhagwan Pundalik Naik, the talk of redeveloping BIT chawls brings anxiety.

Naik, who has lived in Mumbai Central’s BIT chawl all his life, is excited about getting a new home with an attached toilet but is not sure what shifting out of his 180-sq-ft one-room-kitchen will mean for his family of three.

“We are ready for a private developer to step in and redevelop our houses. But the BMC should not give up on its responsibilities in these chawls and leave us to the mercy of private developers,” Naik said.

“Also, it’s not the first time that we’re hearing talks of redevelopment.”

Hindustan Times on Wednesday had reported that the state government has told the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to submit a plan on how the 133 Bombay Improvement Trust chawls in south central Mumbai will be redeveloped.

The BMC, which owns these chawls, will invite bids from private developers for developing these chawls that are located in Mumbai Central, Agripada, Sion, Parel and Mazgaon.

The project will not only ensure better homes for existing residents of the chawls but also provide the island city with housing stock.

The chawls will be developed in clusters, like a mini township.

For many like Naik, however, this seems like one of the many empty promises that have been coming their way for years.

Fifty-seven-year-old Dominic Alberquerque, who lives in the BIT chawl at Agripada, treats the announcement with skepticism. “We’ve been shown many such grand plans but we are worried about when this plan will finally materialise,” he said.

Minister of State for Housing Sachin Ahir said the ball is in the BMC’s court. He told HT that the delay in redevelopment could be reduced if the BMC appoints developers after inviting bids.

But an announcement from Ahir is not enough to set the ball rolling.

“We need specific directions from the state on how to go ahead with the proposal and we will act accordingly,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Anil Diggikar.

The chawls, built by the British to house migrant workers, have been an exception to the city’s booming realty.

Standing on prime real estate land near the city’s erstwhile mill belt, these chawls are a pale shadow of what they used to be.

Most of them are crumbling due to age and years of neglect.

The paint is peeling off the walls and rainwater seeping in has left mossy patches on the walls.

Developers have been eyeing these properties for the potential that redevelopment offers here.

This has been going against residents. Attempts by private developers to redevelop these chawls have resulted in delays and infighting among the residents.

Since rules governing redevelopment entail taking the consent of 70 per cent of the residents, builders resorted to manipulation and pressure tactics.

The state government hopes with the BMC inviting bids, the delay and corrupt practices will be stemmed.

First Published: Jul 08, 2010 03:07 IST