Mumbai: Criticizing the Mumbai Port Trust's (MbPT) "steep" hike in its residential rent and the "forcible  eviction" of tenants, former Union Minister Milind Deora today accused the Centre of trying to "scrap" the protection given to them.

Milind Deora
Milind Deora. File Pic

Deora, who was the Minister of State for the Ministry of Shipping during the erstwhile Congress regime, addressed the affected MbPT tenants, at a public meeting held in south Mumbai.

"When I was a Shipping Minister, I ensured that injustice is not done to a single family in the process of giving ownership. However, since May 2014...ever since the new government took over, suddenly the government has started considering tenants as encroachers," he said.

"Therefore, we are here to discuss to form an umbrella organisation to fight with steep, unaffordable and retrospective rent fixation at market rates and to mitigate the implications of possible eviction of these aggrieved
tenants," Deora added.

"I don't believe in politicising this issue, but the bitter truth is that the Union Government wants to scrap the protection given to the tenants across the country. We need to fight against this injustice in the same fashion that we fought to protest land acquisition ordinance last year," Deora added.

Deora later tweeted about the development saying, "Formed an umbrella organisation of tenants who are being forcibly & illegally evicted by MbPT & the government."

MbPT owns 1800 acres of land stretching from Sassoon Dock Colaba to Sewri in suburban Wadala on the eastern sea front of the mega city and large chunk of the land has been leased to more that 2,500 tenants. The MbPT has decided to levy new rental rates.

Terming the revised rates as "steep, unaffordable and arbitrary", advocate Viren Asar, counsel of the MbPT lessees and tenants, said, "MbPT is in violation of the Supreme Court order when it revised rent in 2006 and due to its unwarranted act, lakhs of middle class people may be evicted for the proposed smart city and thousands may lose their long business."

Thirty-three writ petitions have been filed in the Bombay High Court to address the problem of leases not being renewed or regularized despite a 2004 SC judgement.

Parvej Kooper, a tenant who was allegedly evicted from his house by the MbPT citing the reason that his lease was expired, vented out his aggression and said, "This new (union) government is following the divide-and-rule policy and selectively evicting the tenants on baseless grounds."