By Accommodation Times News Services
Out of sheer anger and hopelessness U. Bhandari, a smalltime contractor and a staunch Congress party supporter, cast his vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party at the general elections. His wife and aged mother followed suit.
Bhandari’s change in loyalty to a party who he has been consistently favouring over the years has nothing to do with the Narendra Modi wave that swept the polls.
What provoked him is a discriminatory policy against the redevelopment of MHADA (Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority) colonies in the city that evoked ire and frustration against the ruling Congress-NCP combine government in Maharashtra state.
“This government has been extremely partial. It has discriminated between two groups residing in the same MHADA layout,” said Bhandari, who lives with his family in a colony in Gandhinagar, Bandra (east).
Among the two groups MIG (Middle Income Group) and LIG (Lower Income Groups), the former enjoyed benefits of having an extra 2.5 FSI (Floor Space Index) with premium, while the latter had none. In the earlier policy, an LIG resident would have got an area admeasuring between 484 to 600 sq. ft . The changed policy gives a resident a lesser area of around 300 sq. ft. almost the same area they have been occupying since last more than sixty years!
When Prithviraj Chauhan took over the reins of being the Chief Minister of Maharashtra in 2010, he revoked an earlier policy that allowed societies going for redevelopment to avail a benefit by paying a premium for extra FSI.
Most MIG buildings took advantage of earlier policy, which was applicable to 52 MHADA colonies in the city housing several lakhs of voters. By the time LIG buildings started the process of development and could avail of the opportunity, Chauhan was appointed as the Chief Minister.
It is a well-known fact is that on persuasion by some members of the MHADA Board that Chauhan came up with the new policy to demand flats from the newly constructed building in lieu of extra FSI and to stop the premium option in order to increase the housing stock in MHADA colonies.
This proposal did not go down well with the developer’s or with LIG buildings societies who rejected it outright explaining that the policy was unviable.
After waiting for nearly two years and failing to get a response the government increased the FSI to 3, calling it a ‘game changer’. It is more than a year now since the change of policy, and yet, there are no takers. Instead, it has provoked intense opposition from residents. As a result, the entire redevelopment process of LIG buildings has come to a standstill.
Bhandari says that he feels frustrated and cheated seeing glitzy towers sprung up in place of old MIG buildings, whereas old LIG buildings stand in decrepit conditions. Living in decaying structures adds to their woes of having to cope with leakage problems, old wiring lines and cracked walls
“It costs a lot to repair the building. We try to fix the problem temporarily,” said Shubhangi Deshpande, a senior citizen residing in a LIG building. Deshpande has been residing in the colony since the inception of MIG and LIG buildings in 1960s.
Today she is pained to see neighbouring MIG buildings turn into posh high-rises in front of her eyes, while she is still living in deprivation in an old rundown LIG structure, which is in dire need of repairs. The sad truth is that she will continue to remain in this condition because no builder finds the new policy economically viable to take up its redevelopment.
She has pinned all hopes on the next new government to fix the problem.
Another resident, Mrs. Madiwal says that by capping the area around 300 sq. ft. it appears that the Chief Minister wants to condemn a person belonging to the LIG category into a cramped tenement she has been living since generations. Mrs. Madiwal is living in a tenement since last six decades and over the years her family has outgrown in size with sons, their wives and grand children but still confined to a small living area.
Like Bhandari, Deshpande and Madiwal millions of voters upset with the present government’s discriminatory policy towards redevelopment of old and dilapidated buildings had put up hoardings in several MHADA buildings across the city to vent their anger against the reigning government. They have decided to express their anger, once again, by putting up similar hoardings against the government in the forthcoming state assembly elections expected three months from now.