As the sun sets, Asia’s largest slum Dharavi twinkles in all colours of the spectrum. However, on Thursday, February 7, around 1.3 lakh families will switch off their lights from 7 pm to 8 pm to protest against the pilot project under Dharavi Redevelopment Work by Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) in Sector 5. The sector spans over 153 acres from Sion to BKC.
“In the past, we have been requesting MHADA to stop the redevelopment work,” said Baburao Mane from Dharavi Bachao Andolan (DBA). “We want the government to give us 400 sq-feet houses instead of 300 sq-feet that is being offered. Apart from the blackout, all residents have planned a huge rally on February 9 in the area to support our demand,” he added.
According to the residents, the state would be earning a lot of revenue by selling the commercial area that is proposed to come up during the redevelopment, and hence, their demand for 400 sq-feet houses is fair. They also allege that the survey conducted by a MHADA architect was flawed and lacked data regarding residents. The project has been mired in controversy ever since it was proposed and the DBA has protested several times against it.
The pilot project was kick-started in December last year and is expected to finish in five years’ time. Last year, a delegation comprising of Senior Shiv Sena Leader Subhash Desai and a few members from the DBA met MHADA Vice President Satish Gavai and discussed the issue with him.
“Gavai was requested to start the work after the winter session as the issue of providing 400 sq-feet houses for Dharavi residents was likely to be discussed in the session,” said a DBA member. On the other hand, MHADA made it clear that 400 sq-feet houses was an unrealistic demand and, if need be, the housing body is ready to take help of police officials if the DBA members try to create problems.