In the wake of several cases of alleged religious bias, the state minority department has recommended provisions prohibiting discrimination on basis of race, religion and colour in sale and rental of houses; it has also suggested a reservation of 10 per cent for minorities
The recent cases of religious discrimination, notably the controversial case of 25-year-old Misbah Quadri being allegedly evicted from a flat in Wadala, have jolted the Maharashtra government into taking the first steps towards putting in place fair housing laws to prevent the ghettoisation of the city.
The state minority department yesterday recommended the enactment of legal provisions prohibiting discrimination in the “sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions” based on race, colour and religion. The department has also recommended a reservation of nearly 10 per cent for minorities in the “sale, rental, and financing of dwellings”.
The recommendation, senior officials from the minority department told mid-day, was to include the proposed provisions in the new draft housing policy of the state, which is currently being circulated to all departments for suggestions and objections.
“The state minority department has taken serious note of the reported discrimination in housing in Mumbai. While such discrimination is hard to establish and there is an ongoing investigation by the minorities commission, we feel it is about time we enacted some anti-discrimination guidelines/rules,” said a senior official from the minority department.
“Since the department cannot suggest changes to the cooperative society rules or criminal laws, we are pushing hard for these changes in the draft housing policy,” he said, adding that apart from Quadri’s case, they have received a few more complaints of discrimination on the basis of religion in housing societies and from those hunting for jobs.
Currently the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act has no provision of this kind, and the cooperatives department awaits action from police before initiating action into discrimination complaints. “We have no provision in our law to prevent housing discrimination and, unless the police register an FIR, we can’t do much in such cases as of now,” said state Cooperatives Secretary S K Sharma.
Senior housing officials said that while they were open to the idea, they would have to check the legality and constitutionality of the proposed provisions. “This can surely be a part of the housing policy, but we will have to check if they fit as per legal and constitutional provisions,” said a senior official of the housing department.
Urban planners told mid-day that the proposed provisions, as they stand currently, would be difficult for the state to implement with its limited resources and the current atmosphere of religious isolation of several communities in societies.
There is little evidence to show that past provisions setting aside quotas for weaker sections, such as those related to the allotment of collector’s land, have been fully implemented in Maharashtra. “The state will have to look at integration in the broad sense of access to public services and open spaces before addressing the most complex issue of housing segregation.
We have seen in New Delhi how the mere presence of economically backward dwellings did not go down well in a mixed residential neighbourhood. Inter-religious contact would be even more difficult. The Maharashtra government would have to show extraordinary political will to pull this one off,” said Amita Bhide, head, Centre of Urban Planning, Policy and Governance, TISS.
May 2015: Misbah Quadri, 25, a media professional claimed that she was thrown out of a flat in a posh society in Wadala because of religious bias.
May 2015: Vaibhav Rahate, 27, registered an FIR after he was prevented from buying a flat in an upcoming high-rise in Malad because the builder allegedly did not permit ‘Maharashtrian, Muslim and non-veg eating buyers’.
March 2009: Palvisha Aslam, 27, a Bollywood producer, alleged religious discrimination, when she was prevented from renting a flat in a middle-class neighbourhood, which was a short distance from Film City.
2009: Bollywood actor Emraan Hashmi alleged that Muslims faced discrimination in Mumbai’s property market.