A genuine homebuyer, looking for an adequate and affordable dwelling to spend his life in, will be justly upset to know that Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) has let a whopping 178 acres of prime land go to encroachers. This, officials say, could easily have been used to build a few lakh homes in the city.
The creation of the agency was for the purpose of providing reasonably priced accommodation to lower, middle and higher-income class citizens. MHADA has been entrusted with 3,312 acres of land in Mumbai for development of residential colonies. But statistics reveal that the authority failed to protect a large tract and also helplessly watched as almost half of its 22,000 transit homes were encroached upon.
According to the data of the land pool, MHADA colonies such as Aram Nagar (Versova), Adarsh Nagar (Worli), Kannamwar Nagar (Vikhroli), Sahkar Nagar and Subhash Nagar (Chembur), and Gandhi Nagar (Bandra) cover approximately 1.32 crore square metres. 7.16 lakh sq m of this is unusable due to existing roads, nullahs, rivers, marshy lands, grounds and gardens, and 7.12 lakh sq m has been encroached.
In fact, the authority is unable to provide details as to when these prime areas were usurped. While at a few locations MHADA has entrusted the job of protecting its land to private security personnel, a large number of plots remain unguarded, says a recent statement by the authority.
Meanwhile, when the issue of encroachment came up before the Public Accounts Committee of the state legislature, representatives of the housing authority stated that 11,500 people were staying illegally in transit camps. The committee headed by BJP MLA Girish Bapat suggested police action against the trespassers after verifying the documents of the residents.
When probed, DK Jagdale, joint chief officer of MHADA’s Mumbai board, said most of the encroachments on the agency’s land comprise slums pockets, which have been there since 1995 and earlier. As the encroachers claim relief under the state government programmes, almost 252 SRA schemes were planned for rehabilitation.
But, sources from MHADA say a number of illegal structures came up after 1995. And now the authority cites political pressure as the main reason for not taking any action. One day the government may accord vital-project status to the encroachers and rehabilitate post-1995 breaches, similar to those near the airport, Dharavi, Brimstowad etc, said an official.