Mumbai: Byculla Jail imprisons Kamathipura residents' redevelopment dreams

Development Control Rules prevent construction within 150 metres of a prison and require builders to take several permissions for construction within 500 metres; with most of Kamathipura within 500 metres of Byculla Jail, redevelopment plans have been stalled

For the residents of Kamathipura, their dreams of seeing the red-light district redeveloped are being held hostage inside Byculla Jail.

A slab on the second storey of this building in Kamathipura had collapsed in June 2013. File pic
A slab on the second storey of this building in Kamathipura had collapsed in June 2013. File pic

With the Development Control Rules (DCR) prohibiting construction within a 150-metre radius of a prison and requiring a host of permissions from local authorities in a radius of 500 metres, the Byculla Jail is casting its shadow over most of Kamathipura and hindering its redevelopment.

Residents have now started a campaign to collect 5,000 signatures and petition the government and state housing minister Ravindra Waikar to ease the rules, contending that living in the old buildings is putting their lives at risk.

Living in fear
With more than 500 buildings spread over 52 acres, Kamathipura is home to nearly 7,000 people. Residents say that the 500-metre condition would be applicable to nearly all of the region’s 36 lanes, barring lanes 1-5, which isn’t even 10% of the total area.

Sunil Kadam, from a residents’ association in Kamathipura, said, “Residents have started a signature campaign. We want to redevelop Kamathipura, as most buildings have become old and we always live in fear that they could collapse at any time. We have started the redevelopment, but are now stuck because of these policies.”

“For a few thousand prison inmates, the government is risking the lives of lakhs of residents across the city,” said Kadam. Another resident of Kamathipura claimed that many projects near Thane jail have also been stalled because of the policy.

“Most of the jails were constructed far from residential areas during British rule, but the city expanded and many people live near them now. Our signature campaign is meant to make the government realise that the rule is hampering the lives of citizens,” he said.

BMC speak
When contacted, BMC’s Assistant Municipal Commissioner Sanjog Kabre, of E ward, said, “I will have to see the Development Control Rules before I comment on this.” A BMC official admitted that several projects are stuck in the G/South ward, because of their proximity to the Arthur Road jail.

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