By Accommodation Times News Service
The Bombay High Court on Saturday directed the government to expedite the process of redevelopment of the Bombay Development Directorate (BDD) chawls, observing that their “inhabitants live in unhygienic conditions and pose a threat to the public health at large”. The court was hearing a plea filed by ex-policemen, who were seeking directions to the government to consider granting ownership to chawl tenants, even after retirement.
A division bench of justices S C Dharmadhikari and Dr Shalini Phansalkar Joshi made this observation after going through the affidavit filed by the government, informing about the steps it was undertaking for the redevelopment.
Filed through advocate G W Mattos, the affidavit stated that the land on which the BDD chawls were currently located was owned by the Revenue Department, and it will have to be transferred to the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) before the redevelopment could start.
Another such land parcel in Sewree was with the central government and needed to be first transferred to the state and then to Mhada. Efforts were on to complete these processes, the affidavit said.
It further stated that the Urban Development Department will have to introduce a new regulation in the Development Control Regulations (DCR) for allowing redevelopment of BDD chawls and granting ownership rights to eligible tenants, which will have to be approved by the government.
To this, the bench said, “This looks like the clock is moving backwards.” Mattos then argued that “this is a gigantic task and the government has to rehouse around 16,000 tenants”. “Yes, it is taking some time. But efforts are on in the right direction,” he added.
The state government is likely to redevelop the 91 acres of BDD chawls located in Worli, Naigaon and Lower Parel areas. On March 30, the state had issued a government resolution (GR), appointing Mhada as the nodal agency to redevelop the chawls, thereby not giving the benefit of redevelopment to private developers.
The BDD chawls, comprising 16,000 tenements, were constructed over 90 years ago. The 160 sqft tenements house government staffers, of which around 2,916 tenements house police constables and their families. Some families have been living there for almost three generations.