In course of the two terms that he spent in the chief minister’s chair, Vilasrao Deshmukh took some critical decisions that had the power to change the lives of millions of people in the state. But for their shoddy implementation, they could have earned great laurels for the statesman.
Bonds for cooperatives
Soon after taking over in 1999, Deshmukh made the announcement to provide the much-needed financial assistance to cooperative sugar units, spinning mills, which form the backbone of the rural economy.
The relief came in the form of bonds worth Rs 25,000 crore. He also set up the Maharashtra state cooperative finance corporation for the same purpose. But the corporation soon became a sick unit and contributed little to ameliorate the cooperative units.
Land for mill workers
After the decision was taken to redevelop mills, Deshmukh’s government accepted a major suggestion from textile mill owners, by agreeing to amalgamate land equal to 1/3rd area of each redeveloped mill and reserve it for construction of homes for mill workers.
The mill workers demanded that the land not be allotted separately in each mill, but be amalgamated in a separate area. The decision was termed controversial, but Deshmukh approved of it, and it was implemented at a sluggish pace. To this day however, the matter remains contentious, and mill workers are often seen agitating over housing.
Removal of slums
Soon after he took over in 2004, Deshmukh took one of his boldest executive decisions – to remove illegal slums on land owned by MHADA and the state government in parts of the city.
But his own party men from Mumbai steamrollered him against the move, saying that the Congress had promised to protect slums constructed till the year 2000 during their campaign for the 2004 general elections. Till date, slums are still mushrooming, and protection for slums built prior to 2000 is yet to be legalised.
Deshmukh announced his housing policy in 2007 which could have paid him rich dividends, had the policy been implemented vigorously.
But it remained mostly on paper, and the much-awaited housing regulator continues to be a distant dream. Even the transfer of land to cooperative societies is yet to be implemented completely.
Being the ex-officio chairman of the MMRDA, Deshmukh announced an ambitious project for rental housing, which could have provided much needed relief to citizens unable to afford their own homes owing to the steep rates in the real estate sector. But this turned out to be yet another non-starter and the MMRDA is now going slow on it.
As the World Bank pushed the MUTP II project to ease some of the burden on the suburban railway network, Deshmukh decided to launch the Maharashtra Urban Infrastructure Project to ease traffic woes through construction of flyovers and widening of arterial roads. The project is inching towards completion, with the ambitious Santacruz-Chembur Link Road yet to be completed.