Slum Free Mumbai: A Dream Or Nightmare?

slumsBy Accommodation Times Research

Compiled by A T Bureau
The policies of the state around the critical aspect of urban housing needs to be thoroughly engaged with and critiqued before one ventures to pass any kind of judgment on the legality or otherwise and rights of slum dwellers. The reason for this being ample evidence of policies that either are flawed in their conceptualization itself or rendered useless by remaining just words on paper. The attempt here is to understand the manner in which the state has miserably failed to cater to the needs of the urban poor living in the different slums of Mumbai and elsewhere in the cities of this state.

What we will see is that one of the main reasons for this abject failure of the state is a paradigm shift in the role of the state, from performing that of a provider of housing to reducing that to a regulator of housing settlements. These are necessary to be understood since they have a critical bearing on the growth of slums in the city.

A brief overview of the role of the state as provider of housing establishes its abject failure in the role of housing provider. According to P.S.A. Sundaram in his book, “Bombay: Can it house its millions”, the Housing Board, as the successor MHADA (until 1986) had supplied about 100,000 fully built ownership dwellings to various income groups of which 75 % were for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and Low Income Groups (LIG). However, post 1985 there was a shift in the target groups of the housing schemes, with the proportion earmarked for High Income Groups increasing and the EWS category being left out. Against the annual housing need for 46,000 dwellings in the 1960s and 60,000 dwellings in the 1970s, the supply of formal housing by the public and private sectors together was only 17,600 and 20,600 respectively. Between 1984 and 1991, the supply of formal sector housing increased by about 47,400 units per annum mainly on account of private sector activity. Property rates in Mumbai being the highest in India, speculation and hoarding in real estate was the most lucrative investment until the 1990s. As reported in one of the local weeklies, ’… The real irony is that in a city where thousands are homeless, about 0.1 million flats are lying vacant for the right price’

Housing supply by public agencies has been far below the requirement and that by the private sector has always been beyond the reach of poor. Housing conditions thus deteriorated as 73 % of households in 1991 compared to 69 % in 1981 lived in one-room tenements (Government of Maharashtra, 1995). Rental markets were locked, and as such the only option for many low-income families was to encroach on public and private open lands and build structures, which they could afford (BMRDA, 1994, pp.259).

In Mumbai out of the total population of 11 million about 55% constitute its slum population, who occupy about 12.85 % of the city’s total land area. It is also important to note that a greater portion of thee lands on which slums are located today were previously uninhabitable and it is through the efforts of the slum dwellers that these lands were “reclaimed” and rendered habitable. Approximately 5.5 to 6 million live in slums in the most unhygienic and filthy conditions and another one million live on the pavements. It is also estimated that nearly 2 million people live as tenants in rented premises, a large number of which are old and dilapidated structures, including ‘chawls’. As a result we find that nearly 8.5 million of the city’s population lives in sub-standard or unsafe housing conditions under the abuse and continuous threat of displacement. Today it is said that about 82 % of the population live in one room abode. This housing situation blatantly exposes the continuing indifference, neglect and lack of the will of the government towards housing and living conditions in the city.

This situation can be understood to have emerged due to one serious lacunae and that being the absence of a focused direction in tackling the problems of slum dwellers. The rights-based approach that is so required in dealing with the issues of the urban poor has failed to find any currency with the state. As such then post-independence there have been several approaches and policies that at best appear arbitrary and ad hoc. There is a lack on any clarity of vision in any form whatsoever. The only policy that has any continuity is that of slum demolitions!

However, in trying to analyze the approaches and policies of the state we can draw few conclusions. Firstly, evictions and demolitions have been seen to be by the state as one of the major solutions to the “problems” of slums. Secondly and simultaneously, the rights of slum dweller to shelter, basic amenities, etc. have also been marginally and occasionally addressed. These, however, are not linear policies but are overlapping all the while.

In the first two decades after independence, the official approach towards slums in Mumbai was to clear the hutments and re-house the slum dwellers in alternate accommodation. In a bid to strengthen the force of the state to demolish slums, section 354A was introduced to the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) Act in 1954 by an amendment that empowered the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai to clear slums. Meanwhile, between 1943 and 1956, the government of the erstwhile Bombay state disbursed small grants to various municipal bodies for improvement of slums. In 1956, this changed when the central government approved a Slum Clearance Plan. Bombay was one of the six pilot cities covered under this scheme. The Development plan for Mumbai was launched in 1967 and there was optimism that it might have been possible to clear slums. In 1969 a special slum improvement cell was created in BMC to clear and resettle slums on municipal lands. Also Slum Improvement Programme was started in 1970 to improve in the basic amenities like drainage, drinking water, roads toilets etc.

The strategy of demolitions that began with the plan was pursued till the 1970s. However, it did not work because people, after some time, simply re-built their huts at the same location or, if there was too much harassment, at another unoccupied location nearby. Moreover, land-owning agencies were ill equipped to police their lands and lower level officials often connived with middlemen to allow encroachments for money. Even when the state government did try to resettle the poor, they were unsuccessful. Resettlement proceeded erratically and was dependant on the whims and fancies of local municipal officials and the poor were completely excluded from any decision-making.

In the 1970s, the state first recognized the need for some form of resettlement for slum dwellers, after slums were demolished. A Slum Improvement Board (SIB) was set up, slums began to be viewed as a possible solution to housing problems and the state began to provide water. In 1971, with the enactment of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act the government was equipped with wider powers to notify slums, and implement clearance schemes. The city’s slum population was estimated at that time to be 1.3 million. In keeping with the consistent policy of slum evictions, several evictions were consistently carried out. One such notable instance was on 17th May 1976 where there was forcible eviction and demolition of the Janata colony situated in Mankhurd with a population of 70,000 was done. They were not provided with enough accommodation in the new site in the Cheetah camp as promised by the BARC officials and BMC who wanted to make swimming pool and other recreation facilities for the scientists residing in the BARC complex.

There are three important developments in the 1970s that need to be looked at carefully. The first was the launching of a slum improvement programme while the second was the passing of a law protecting the rights of slum dwellers and the third being the de-legitimizing of so-called “illegal encroachments”.

•    Centrally Funded Environmental Improvement of Urban Slums (EIUS), 1970

In 1970 the Slum Improvement Program (SIP) was launched with the mandate to provide water supply, toilets, roads, drainage and streetlights for slum dwellers. The scheme included provision of community taps, community latrines, construction of pathways and drains and provision of streetlights. The scheme was financed by grants from the central government. Slum Improvements began in 1972 under the Central Scheme of Environmental Improvement of Urban Slums. A separate mechanism, the Maharashtra Slum Improvement Board was set up by the state government in 1974 to co-ordinate this work. This was later merged with MHADA, when the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) was set up in 1977. MHADA improved slums on government and private land whereas slums on corporation land were improved by BMC.

Lack of space for execution and staying orders from courts created difficulties in implementation. The majority of slums situated on lands owned by state government, municipal corporation and Housing Board lands were improved but those on private lands or central government land could not be easily improved. Another reason for its limited success is pointed out in a BMC Report in the early 1990s by Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Slums) K.G. Pai, where it is pointed out that even basic slum improvement would have required Rs.150 crore a year, whereas, the scheme had a provision of Rs 151 crores for the entire Sixth Plan period. The report goes on to admit that the SIP had, not even touched 30 lakh slum-dwellers in Mumbai alone. Another reason for the fact that the implementation of the improvement scheme did not significantly improve the environment was due to its limited reach and lack of funds.

•    The Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971

The next major development in this decade was the passing of the Slum Act. Under the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971 the competent authority may by notification in the official Gazette, declare area to be ‘slum’ where it is satisfied that:

a)    any area is or may be a source of danger to health, safety or convenience of the public of that area or of its neighbourhood, by reason of that area having inadequate or no basic amenities, or being unsanitary, squalid overcrowded or otherwise; or
b)    the buildings in any area, used or intended to be used for human habitation are
i)    in any respect, unfit for human habitation; or
ii)    by reason of dilapidation, overcrowding faulty arrangement and design of such buildings, narrowness or faulty arrangement of streets, lack of ventilation light or sanitation facilities or any combination of these factors, detrimental to the health, safety or convenience.

May by notification in the official Gazette declare such area to be a slum area.

Improvements under the Act were carried out only in slums on government lands, earmarked for ‘improvement‘ in the Development Plan. Taking advantage of this act, the owners of slums on private land started evicting slum dwellers on an unprecedented scale. The government of Maharashtra issued an ordinance subsequently to prevent eviction of occupants in notified slums. The notification prevents eviction of ’occupiers from any building or land for recovery of arrears of rent without prior permission of the competent authority. It also makes a slum eligible for receiving improvement inputs (especially infrastructure) under various improvement schemes. However, there have been several appeals by private landowners challenging notification of their lands as ‘slums’. This did not cover central government lands, as state laws do not apply to central government lands.

•    The Maharashtra Vacant Lands (Prohibition of Unauthorised Structures and Summary Eviction) Act, 1975

In an effort to prevent a further proliferation of squatter settlements, the state government enacted the Vacant Lands Act. According to the Act, all lands encroached by squatters can be considered vacant, all slums covered by the Act are temporary and can be removed, police can be mobilized for eviction and alternative accommodation has to be provided. Squatters have to pay ‘compensation’ for unauthorized occupation of land. Due to these provisions, courts could not move against evictions. With the help of this act many demolitions were carried out in different parts of the city. The offence of unauthorized occupation was non-bailable. After the slum census in 1976, the government made a policy of protection, removal, rehabilitation and improvement. For the vigilance of open lands and for the recovery of compensation and service charges the government appointed a Controller of Slums at the rank of District Collector. The rates of compensation were revised only in 1987 (based on the recommendations of Jankhanwala
Committee). The rates of compensation included service charges, compensation for occupying land and nominal taxes, with different rates for residential, commercial and industrial uses in different cities of the state.

The beginning of the next decade i.e. 1980s, witnessed a very large wave of evictions during the Chief Ministership of Shri Antulay. It must be noted that at this point in time the vision for the city’s development was replication of Singapore. Thousands of slum dwellers were evicted during this time. This period is significant for one development i.e. the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Olga Tellis. In Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corpn. (1985) 3 SCC 545,572. In this case the squatters and the pavement-dwellers who were sought to be ejected by the respondent, without due process of law, invoked the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 32. A Constitution Bench held that their eviction from the dwellings would not only result in deprivation of shelter but would also inevitably lead to deprivation of their means of livelihood which means deprivation of life in as much as the pavement dwellers were employed in the vicinity of their dwellings. Right to life under Article 21 includes right to livelihood, and if this right were to be affected without reasonable procedure established by law, it would be violative of Article 21. ‘The conclusion, therefore, in terms of the constitutional phraseology is that the eviction of the petitioners will lead to deprivation of their livelihood and consequently to the deprivation of their life.’

•    Slum Upgrading Programme (SUP) funded by the World Bank, 1985

After the failure of the SIP, in 1985, the World Bank’s Rs 53 crore Bombay Urban Development Project (BUDP) came into being with two programmes – the Slum Upgradation Programme (SUP) and the Low Income Group Shelter Programme (LISP). SUP consisted of giving a 30-year renewable lease of land to cooperative societies of slum dwellers (where the lands were not needed for public purposes), providing civic amenities on a cost-recovery basis and giving loans to upgrade people’s houses. Under the LISP, the state provided subsidized land to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and Low Income Groups (LIG) to build their own homes in accordance with a type design.

A major shift in policy came with the launching of the BUDP financed by the World Bank, with a two-pronged approach of regularization of squatter settlements and supply of serviced land to manage the problem of slums. In line with the World Bank’s philosophy, secure long-term legal tenure was to be granted along with provision of basic service with recovery for 100,000 slum households. The standards for plot sizes and infrastructure were based on ‘affordable costs’ The price to be charged was based on the zone in which the slum is located as per the Development Plan, plot size and plot use to be repaid over 20 years. Leasehold rights were to be granted to co-operative societies of slum dwellers covering BMC and government land and 10 % private land. Individual members of the society were entitled for Home Improvement Loans (HIL), which could be advanced against the mortgage of individual leasehold rights. The scheme however did not benefit slums on private and central government lands.

Various difficulties faced in the implementation of the BUDP programme included hostility of the excluded part of slum community, which had to be resettled and poor availability of relocation sites. Establishing the eligibility of appropriate households and problems of unwilling households and unwilling communities created serious problems. It also raised issues about the role that such co-operatives can play in taking up maintenance responsibilities and preventing further encroachments. Major difficulties were faced in the extension of services due to the limited capacity of site infrastructure and the inability of the BMC to further augment existing networks. The HIL component remained under-utilised as assessment of incomes, systems of disbursement and collection of loans remained unclear. Also contributing to its failure was the lack of drive and commitment on the part of the authorities and due to the influence on the government by real estate developers against transfer of land tenure to the slum dwellers.

Further, again, the SUP could not be implemented on central government or private land. This has been a noticeable precedent in Mumbai – for in spite of the Slum Areas Act that enables local authorities to provide services in settlements already ‘declared’ slums, many government agencies still do not permit the BMC to carry out ‘improvement’ of slums on their land. Thus, central agencies do not give permissions for basic amenities, up- gradation or resettlement and slum dwellers continue to live on these lands.

In 1989, with the change of political party, the State Government issued instructions to all municipal corporations for considering granting of leasehold tenure to individual eligible households squatting on government lands before 1985. Heads of households whose names were included in the voter list of 1985 and who were staying at the same place as indicated in the voter list, were issued photo passes for granting of tenure. Slums on private land, squatters on central government land and pavement dwellers were not eligible. The reluctance of the Revenue Department to part with state government land was one of the major difficulties faced.

Only 22,000 households were covered under the programme after which BUDP was closed in 1994.

•    The Prime Minister’s Grant Project (PMGP), 1985

The special grant announced by the Prime Minister in 1985 to improve living conditions of slum dwellers in Mumbai, brought a major shift in the approach towards improvement of squatter settlements with the initiation of redevelopment projects. An important component of this grant was to be used for redevelopment of the biggest slum of Mumbai-Dharavi. A master plan was prepared for Dharavi. Reconstruction was justified in high-density slums like Dharavi where in situ upgrading had limited relevance and could not be expected to bring perceptible improvements. Co-operatives of slum households were to be provided with 18 sq. m. (carpet area) walk-up tenements. Families were to be shifted to transit accommodation during the construction period on a rental basis. Households were required to pay for the cost of tenements and the co-operative societies were helped to establish liaisons with lending institutions. The reconstruction project succeeded in a limited way by tackling public health hazards, but the high cost of the tenements prompted many households to sell.

Delays in construction, escalations in the cost of tenements and shortage of transit camps created hardships for people. In some cases slumlords got into the management of the society and created obstacles for development. A few outsiders managed to get their names included in the list of beneficiaries. In an evaluation of this scheme, Bharwada and Mahajan (1999) reported that by 1993, 60 % of targeted upgrading and 74 % of reconstruction had been achieved. However, cost recovery has been poor due to poor recovery mechanisms. Lack of awareness about the benefits, liabilities and procedure of the project led to dissatisfaction amongst beneficiaries, which subsequently led to poor participation. The system of allotment through drawing of lots disintegrated the community fabric. In stray NGO supported cases like Markandeya Co-operative, the community directly demanded leasehold rights of land from the Municipal Corporation to mortgage and raise resources. But the delays left people disheartened and wondering whether the seven-year struggle was worth the results (Bharwada & Mahajan 1999). However, slum redevelopment in Dharavi was a major shift in the improvement approach.

The 1990s saw the further withdrawal of the state from the role of provider to the role of facilitator. Under the guise of privatization and public-private partnerships, it was convenient for the Government to answer this string of failures not with greater involvement, but by withdrawing and giving the field to private builders and developers. The end of this decade saw one of the largest slum demolitions in Mumbai history and this almost epitomized the situation where the demolitions continued but resettlement and in situ improvement policies were desperately lacking. During the second week of February 1999, another demolition of over 33,000 slum huts took place at Sanjay Gandhi National Park by the forest department. Over 85,000 slum dwellers have been residing in various colonies in Ambedkar Nagar, Jamrushi Nagar, Pimpripada, Azad Nagar and Shanti Nagar, which are in the precincts of the National Park, for more than a decade.

•    Slum Redevelopment Scheme (SRD), 1991

Thus, Sharad Pawar’s (then Chief Minister of the ruling congress government) Slum Redevelopment Scheme (SRD) was launched in 1991. The same norm was picked up by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) set up in the 1990s. The Slum Redevelopment Scheme of the SRA aimed to provide enough incentives – such as increasing the Floor Space Index (FSI) allowed in slum areas and the ability to transfer development rights to other areas of the city – for private developers and builders to redevelop slums. The theory was that by selling the extra space in the open market, tenements for slum dwellers would be cross-subsidized and made affordable to them. The state government also introduced legislation that protected slum dwellers able to establish that they were living at a particular place as of January 1, 1995. The homes of ‘eligible’ slum dwellers thus could not be demolished without their first being resettled.

Notified slums were to be redeveloped at the same site by private builders by offering the incentive of increased maximum floor area ratio (FAR) of 2.5. After re-housing slum dwellers in 180 sq. ft. (about 15 sq. m.) tenements, builders were free to sell the remaining floor space on the open market and to make profits of up to 25 % of the project cost. Thirty years lease was to be given to the co-operatives of re-housed slum dwellers. The consent of at least 70 % of slum families was necessary to implement the scheme. The slum dwellers were required to pay a certain amount of money, approximately, 1/3 in the form of a down payment and the balance in the form of a loan repayable over 15 years. Allottees were not permitted to transfer their tenement for a period of 10 years.

The scheme was a non-starter from the very beginning. Firstly, this scheme did not provide sufficient business opportunity to the investors; secondly the builders were skeptical of getting into wrangles with the slum-dwellers whereby their profits would not materialize within calculated periods. Even if they did have plans, work could not be started due to the lack of transit accommodation. Also, slum-dwellers were reluctant to give possession of their plots in the absence of alternative accommodation. They feared losing possession of their sites permanently since they did not trust the builders. They already had horrid experiences of attacks on them and forcible evictions, led by number of builders at many places in the city. One example of forcible eviction led by the builders was the demolition of the Ambedkar Nagar situated near Back Bay bus depot in 23rd April 1997. After the demolition, Pan Reality Construction Pvt. Ltd. grabbed hold of the land by fencing with wires and stones to put a stop to the entry to the land.

The scheme was criticized, as it was feared that the developers would exploit slum families. Concerns were also expressed over increases in density, and increases in consumption of water and electricity. Non-availability of transit accommodation and maintenance costs were some of the problems faced. Rates quoted by builders for the sale of flats in the open market were lower than the actual market prices due to the 25 % ceiling on profit margins and extra payments were received in black. As the cut-off date for eligibility was 1985, many slum dwellers were not eligible and this created resentments among slum communities. Although the scheme was open to co-operatives of slum dwellers, such societies faced difficulties in implementing the redevelopment projects on their own. Since the lease of the land was made available only after implementation of project it could not be mortgaged to raise institutional finance. Lack of technical knowledge and managerial skills also led to delays.
•    Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRS), 1995

The provision of free tenements to 4 million slum dwellers was one of the slogans in the election manifesto of Shiv Sena, which came to power in 1995. After the change of government, the Afzalpurkar Committee further modified the SRD and the new scheme was called Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRS). Departures from previous policies were made on various levels. The scheme was opened to all slum dwellers included in the 1995 electoral rolls, including pavement dwellers. The carpet area of tenements was increased to 225 sq. ft. (approx 20 sq. m.). The tenements were to be given free of cost to slum dwellers. For every 10 sq. ft. (1 sq. m.) of rehabilitated floor space constructed in the Island City, the builders were offered a free sale component of 7.5 sq. ft. (0.5 sq. m.). A central monitoring and clearing agency was set up, and incentives were given to construct transit accommodation on vacant public lands. The builders were given incentives in the form of additional floor area, which varied between Island City, the suburbs, and difficult areas. However, on each pocket of slum land, a maximum of 2.5 FSI (Floor Space Index) was permitted. Surplus floor area, if any, could be transferred to another area under Transfer of Development Rights (TDR). Additional supports were proposed in case of proposals by the Co-operative Society which included time bound scrutiny, expert advice in technical, financial and administrative matters and an additional commercial component of 5 %. The scheme was to be completed in five years covering 2,335 slum pockets and 90,2015 huts. To strengthen the financial capacity of BMC for provision of infrastructure, a levy was proposed to be collected from the developing agency. The Slum Rehabilitation Authority was constituted for overseeing, co-ordinating and approving these schemes. The executing agencies could be co-operative societies of slum dwellers, public housing organisations, developers, contractors, charitable institutions, or private companies.

All other slum improvement programmes were to be phased out limiting the options for slums. The amendments to the Slum Act, Maharashtra Regional & Town Planning Act,
Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Act, Land Revenue Code and the Development Control Regulations (1991) were made, to restrict the scope of slum dwellers appealing to courts of law seeking injunctions against the scheme. The implementation was strengthened as all projects were to be considered as government works and police power was to be used to remove obstructions to the progress of the works.
The scheme initially generated lukewarm interest from the building lobby, which feared delays due to problems of land ownership, continuity of policy, political alignments in the community and the possible opposition by the beneficiaries after initial consent. Slum dwellers occupying more than 22.5 sq. m. were reluctant to join the scheme. NGOs are helping squatter communities in resettlement, formation of co-operatives, negotiating with authorities and improving legal literacy of squatters to fight for their rights in courts of law, prevention of arbitrary exclusion of eligible households etc. The policy has generated a lot of debate and criticism. Some felt that this is likely to open the doors to a burgeoning real estate Mafia in the city with greater scope for harassment and intimidation by builders using the police. Most of the proposals were initiated in affluent areas and significant numbers of tenements have changed hands.

For all its progressive features, the slum redevelopment scheme still did not contain proactive provisions to resettle families nor did it specify the nature of resettlement and the kinds of entitlements eligible slum dwellers would receive. The SRA promised to construct eight lakh tenements in five-six years. However, only a little over 19,000 tenements were completed in the mid-1990s. When a new government came to power in Maharashtra in 1995, one of its main election promises was to provide eight lakh free houses for 40 lakh slum dwellers in Mumbai.

•    Shivshahi Punarvasan Prakalp Ltd (SPPL), 1998

In August 1998, the Shiv Sena-BJP government set up the Shivshahi Punarvasan Prakalp Ltd (SPPL). The scheme was a rehash of the earlier slum redevelopment scheme. Slum land was to be handed over to builders for the construction of commercial complexes, with the builders in turn using part of their profits to build new houses for the residents of the slum. A Rs 600 crore loan to fund the SPPL was extracted from an extremely reluctant Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA) and the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA). Unlike the earlier redevelopment scheme (where the SRA was only a facilitating agency), the SPPL actively took on the role of a builder. Private builders themselves were given the role of contractors to get them to participate in the scheme. Under the earlier scheme, the builders were expected to make the capital investment without any input from the government, and there were no profit margins. Under the SPPL scheme, the builders as contractors could provide for profit margins. The state government also soon scaled down the size of the project from eight lakh units of 225 sq ft each to two lakh units of the same size. One of the main failings of the SPPL scheme was that it depended on public land as a resource, most of which was already occupied by squatters. By the time the Shiv Sena-BJP government was voted out of office in October 1999, not even a fraction of the number of flats it had promised to build had come up.

In August 2001, the report of the S.S. Tinaikar Committee on slum rehabilitation exposed the SPP as nothing but a fraud, designed to enrich Mumbai’s powerful construction lobby by robbing both public assets and the urban poor. The Committee, headed by the highly-regarded bureaucrat S.S. Tinaikar, who retired as Mumbai’s Municipal Commissioner a decade ago, found that by the end of March 2001, only 7,461 rehabilitation tenements were ready for occupation, and another 39,146 units were in various stages of construction. The Committee found that several projects had simply been abandoned by builders. Of the Rs.73 crores that the SPP handed over to construction firms in the first two months of its existence, over Rs.50 crores is yet to be repaid. Also, building regulations were routinely violated. “Relaxation of guidelines were made,” the Tinaikar report asserts. “Funds in excess of the actual need were disbursed. Special favours to a few developers were made,” the report points out.

The Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRS) was in a sense the” mother of all bluffs” till date perpetrated on the slum-dwellers in Mumbai.

The first half of this decade has again seen its share of demolitions along with attempts to involve NGOs in slum resettlement.

•    Govt-NGO Partnership in Slum Resettlement

A major resettlement of about 60,000 people was carried out with popular participation and partnerships with NGOs in the recent past for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP). The project was designed to improve the capacity of suburban trains by laying new railway lines and the extension of platforms. The project is partly funded by the World Bank. Some 15,000 squatter households living within 25 m of the track and 4,000 households around the stations had to be moved. The resettlement and rehabilitation policy recommended the provision of 20.8 sq. m. apartments for ‘project affected families’. The Railway Slum Dwellers Federation had already collected data about settlements along the tracks, mapped them, set up women’s saving groups and supported the formation of housing co-operatives. Representatives of the NGOs SPARC and the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and were involved in the policy formulation. Indian Railways carried out an unexpected demolition of over 2,000 huts in February 2001, after some pressure from media and a public interest litigation filed in the High Court by an NGO called ‘Citizens for a Just Cause’ to evict slums along railway tracks without any resettlement. However, the state government assured the courts of a time-bound resettlement. Within a year a population of 60,000 was shifted into apartments in four and seven storied buildings and a few families were shifted into single storied transit accommodation (MMRDA, 2002).

Resettled families had a mixed response. On the one hand they are happy to have secure tenure and access to basic services but on the other hand the resettlement location offered fewer employment opportunities and led to increased travel costs for a few.

This brings us to the present where more than 80,000 houses have been demolished by the state government since 8th December 2004.


What appears to emerge is that the only consistent policy of the state has been that of slum demolitions while the passing decades has witnessed a different avatar at every turn with regard to the crucial issue of providing housing for the poor. Until the 1970s clearly the state played the role of provider obviously reflecting the nature of a welfare state. This changed in the 1980s, which saw the marked influence of the World Bank and implementation of its policies. During this period the role of the state undertook a change from provider to facilitator where the slum dwellers were to build their own houses in rehabilitation according to a particular design. The 1990s on the other hand has witnessed the telling influence of the builder lobby in the name of public-private partnerships. This trend continues to date though there is indication that in some instances the state is encouraging the participation of NGOs as well.

Thus the policies show a trend of the government withdrawing from housing sector and increasing the private participation in the housing sector. But increasing the private participation in housing also was not successful as the builders and the developers who were providing housing for the poor were motivated by profit interest. Rather than helping the poor the private participation even increased the misery of the urban poor. Both the private sector and the public sector failed to cater to the housing needs of the poor. Thus neither the public sector nor the private sector, there is a need of the intervention of the third sector that is the NGO’s, which is a part of civil society.

Our urban planning has not only been unbalanced and without a vision to foresee the future needs of the towns and cities in general, it has also been highly discriminatory to the poor in terms of making provisions for their accommodation facilities and the basic services needed for their everyday existence. In the name of creating an orderly, hygienic and aesthetically pleasing environment, the urban planning denies the poor access to adequate housing and environment. The example of Subhashnagar, Wadala where all the residents were residing near the Don Bosco School for about 15 years or more prior to November 1993. But part of the settlement were demolished on May 10, 1993 no notices were given prior to the demolition.  The police had even resorted to lathi charge and several persons suffered injuries.  The site from which they were evicted from near the Don Bosco School has now been made into a ‘garden’. There are numerous examples to show that the middle class notion of beautification which led to the demolition of many a slum. One of them being the Sanjay Gandhi Nagar in Nariman Point where people came for construction work and settled there in the construction site and areas, which were unsuitable for development work. It was not long before the people they served expressed their distaste for them as neighbours. The Cuffe Parade/ Colaba Residents Association brought pressure upon the local authority to remove them from sight. As a result, in 1980 the municipal authority demolished the colony. Having nowhere to go the people simply rebuilt their huts. In 1981 and 1986 they were demolished again until one NGO came to there rescue and acquired a land for their rehabilitation.

Similar Articles

Leave a Reply