BJP housing minister Prakash Mehta has gone from tenant enemy No 1 to friend and ally, after he rolled back a proposal which had Mumbai's pagadi-paying set quiver and shiver. The proposal that was said to be under serious consideration by the housing department stated that pagadi tenants staying on rent should pay rent at current market rates. That meant that people would have to pay up to 200 times the amount they have been paying so far.
The proposed jump, mooted for residents and shop owners with establishments over a certain size, had pagadi tenants in SoBo up in arms. Politicians across lines held meetings to reiterate their support for tenants and there was a lot of political bombast, with MLAs shouting about how they are pro-tenant and will support tenants, come what may, even promising to resign if the proposal went through.
Now that the scare has been snuffed out, however, it is time to take a good, hard look at the pagadi system, and review whether we are still stuck in archaic laws, what needs to change and whether the common chant of 'change tenanted properties to ownership' needs a serious push now. All stakeholders must strive towards a better tenant-landlord equation now. At a Gamdevi meeting, tenants spoke out about how landlords hold them to ransom, not allowing them lifts, cutting off water or other amenities over small issues. While this may be an exaggeration, landlords too are finding it difficult to survive and maintain buildings at the current rent rates. So, there has to be a spirit of mutual understanding and co-operation. There are, in fact, many instances when tenants have all pitched in for repairs and upkeep.
While this may be an end to a temporary controversy and scare for pagadi tenants, let it be the beginning of a new chapter for Mumbai and the Rent Control Act. Arbitrary rules and increases are unfair. Tenants need to co-operate and a spirit of oneness and togetherness must prevail, with both landlords and tenants realising that they are on the same side — the side that holds quality of life and living in highest importance.