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Dharavi slum-dwellers reject 300 sq ft MHADA flats, want bigger homes

Hundreds of slum dwellers in Dharavi who live in 100 sq ft rooms are refusing to move into proposed 300 sq ft flats that the MHADA is building for them, alleging a builder-MHADA nexus. They want bigger flats and more funds to maintain the new homes

They currently live in tiny shanties and rooms that measure no more than 100 square feet. Yet hundreds of residents in Dharavi’s sector V are refusing to move into 300 square feet homes that the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) is building for them right next door. The residents are now demanding that they be given apartments that are at least 400 square feet in size!


Slum dwellers in Dharavi demand apartments that are at least 400 sq ft in size

Is this a case of extreme greed? Or is there more to it than meets the eye?
Take the vase of Sheela Kamble and her family, who currently stay in an 80 square feet space that they call home. It is accessible only through a lane that is so narrow that even one person has to walk sideways to get in. Her house has no windows. Yet she says she won’t move out of this room unless the new home has an area of 400 square feet.


The 300 sq ft homes built by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA). Pics/Sameer Markande

“I spent my life in a dinghy house but that does not mean my kids should also spend their life in a tiny house. We are demanding bigger flats because this is our right. The land belongs to us and the entire land has to be used to build homes for us,” says Kamble who has been staying in Dharavi since 1982.

Kalavati Bhosale on the other hand, is willing to take up the 300 square feet offer but is still supporting the ‘boycott call’, because she doesn’t want to be seen as selfish. “I have only one son, so for me a 300 square feet home is good compared to the 70 square feet house I currently reside in. But then there are many people here, who have more children and a 300 square feet apartment wouldn’t suffice. If I go and accept a home from MHADA everyone would think I am selfish,” she says. Bhosale who has been staying here since 1987 is worried more about the R100 rent that she has to pay the authorities every month. “We are daily wage labourers and this extra burden is unmanageable.”

Sriniwas Vantipeer, who has been a resident here for the past 25 years, says, “We are two brothers and shifting into a small home is not possible,” he puts it bluntly.

Why insist on a 400-square foot home?
But why are the residents so keen about that extra 100 square feet? The real reason is the free land that the government is allegedly handing over to the developers in return for building these homes for the poor. Local leaders of Dharavi Bachao Samiti claim that while builders and MHADA will reap huge profit from the deal, residents of Dharavi would have to settle for less if they accept smaller homes.

Former MLA Baburao Mane, currently the head of the Samiti alleges that in the name of redevelopment of Dharavi many original residents are being cheated. “With the grant of FSI 4, the government is giving extra space to the developers. Why not to the slum dwellers? The government is trying to accommodate all Dharavikars in only 20 per cent of the total land in Dharavi. The rest of the land they want to give away to the builder lobby as a sop,” said Mane.

Mane claims the government is using Dharavi redevelopment as an excuse to give away a prime piece of land to certain big builders, who have been eyeing this fast appreciating chunk of real estate for long. “We are not opposing development, but it can’t be only for a particular group, development has to be for everyone including the slum dwellers of Dharavi.

We demand that locals be given 400 square feet homes and a corpus fund of R5 lakh. The buildings are tall and that means maintenance would be high. We need funds for the same. We all are united immaterial of the political parties we represent.”

What MHADA is giving away
MHADA is at present offering Dharavi residents several homes measuring 300 square feet, free of cost. Every house owner will also be receiving a corpus fund of R20,000 for maintaining the property. The homes are all 1BHKs and will have 24 hours water supply. Dream homes for people living in tiny hutments one would think. But clearly Dharavi residents have bigger dreams

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