500-sqft house plan for slum dwellers impractical: Activists, builders
Builders and housing activists have raised doubts over the feasibility of the Uddhav Thackeray-led state government’s promise for bigger, 500-square-foot (sqft) houses for slum dwellers, terming the move impractical.
The new Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, in its Common Minimum Programme (CMP) released on Thursday, announced 500-sqft houses for slum dwellers. Currently, slum dwellers are entitled to 300-sq ft houses.
Anand Gupta, spokesperson Builders Association of India (BAI), said that in the past, whenever such housing projects, promising increased space, have been announced, it has led to stopping of ongoing slum projects. “Such schemes will only encourage the mushrooming of slums as 500-sqft house is a big area in Mumbai…Every builder and slum dweller would want to reap the benefits and it may have a reverse effect,” said Gupta.
Another top builder, who is a committee member of the Maharashtra Chambers of Housing Industry (MCHI), slammed the decision.
“Constructing a building involves not just building apartments, but also other things such as providing open spaces, parking facilities and sewage treatment plants (STP). There will be no space to provide these facilities,” said the builder, who did not wish to be named. He warned that building 500-sqft houses may prove to be dangerous for the existing, already overstretched infrastructure.
Since the CMP announcement on Thursday, residents of chawls and old buildings have been demanding a similar policy for them. Congress legislator from Mumbadevi, Amin Patel, has written a letter to chief minister Thackeray, requesting similar benefits be extended for old buildings and chawls. “These are legal residents and deserve bigger houses. However, we need to undertake a detailed study [to take a decision on this],” said Patel.
For years, successive state governments have been extending deadlines of slum rehabilitation projects and promising larger spaces to slum dwellers to woo them. Earlier, they used to get houses of 180-sqft area, which increased to 300sqft, and now they are being promised 500sqft. Calling it a “gimmick”, housing activist Ramesh Prabhu said the move will slow down the entire revamp process. “Any change in rules will involve tedious procedures which are time-consuming. The government is rewarding the illegal slum dwellers,” said Prabhu.
However, former minister of state (MoS) for housing and top Shiv Sena leader, Ravindra Waikar, defended the CMP announcement. “Times have changed and even slum dwellers want to live a decent life in bigger houses. We can accommodate them in bigger houses and all we need is the will power to do so, which the Sena has,” said Waikar. The SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority) scheme, started in 1996, has been mired in corruption scandals and a host of other controversies, such as manipulation of slum dwellers, eligible people not making it to the list, fake consents, misleading promises, and inferior quality construction.
All these issues have slowed down redevelopment work.