The Mumbai Slum Improvement Board, a wing of MHADA, which caters to the basic needs of slum pockets in the city, came under sharp criticism from Congress MPs yesterday. They alleged that the board has remained non-functional since last November.
Being its traditional vote bank, Congress is spending crores of rupees on development work in slum pockets across the city through the slum board. Representation pic
The present system needs a serious review, was the contention of three Congress MPs Milind Deora, Eknath Gaikwad and Priya Dutt. The trio met Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan at Sahyadri state guesthouse to discuss important issues from their constituencies Mumbai South, Mumbai South Central and Mumbai North Central, respectively.
Vote bank politics
The tirade against the slum board has direct bearing on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, as slum pockets have been the traditional vote banks of the Congress party. The slum board spends funds worth crores on improvement of slums, besides substantial funds made available by local MLAs, MLCs and MPs, making it one of the richest government bodies in the city.
Recently, the state allocated Rs 180 crore and a proposal to allocate another Rs 60 crore is in the pipeline. The funds are spent on construction of roads, nullahs, community centres, public toilets and other basic facilities. Interestingly, even the civic body spends large amounts on slum pockets under its locality improvement programme.
Even as crores of rupees are spent on a regular basis, the quality of work done in the slums has always been a bone of contention. Despite most of the slum pockets being included in the SRA schemes, and several others to follow suit, the state is spending hefty amounts through the slum board.
Sources claimed that Eknath Gaikwad demanded doing away the e-tendering system, which according to him has become a stumbling block. Despite having funds the board is doing no development work, is what Gaikwad is believed to have said. Sunil Narsale, president of South Mumbai district Congress committee, alleged that not a single work order was issued since November by the slum board.
Other issues raised by MPs were early solution to the ongoing controversy over heritage buildings, funds for repairs of non-cess buildings and removal of cap on high-rises, which is 70 meters at present. There is need to allow buildings as tall as 120 meters, Milind Deora said.
While Priya Dutt claimed citizens were not aware of the capital value based property tax system that has replaced the ratable value based system in the BMC. Also, the government should organise lok adalats for deemed conveyance of cooperative housing societies.
CM assured to look into the issues raised by MPs and asked administration to provide tap water supply to slums, along with installation of water meters. The meeting was attended by Minister of State for Housing Sachin Ahir, MLA Amin Patel, Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte, Housing secretary Debashish Chakravarty and other officials.