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New law to protect slum dwellers

Keeping an eye on upcoming polls, state government set to make changes in Regional and Town Planning Act to protect slum dwellers not covered under the Slum Act

While the Slums Act 1971 offered protection to slums with a cut-off date of January 1, 1995, the Congress-led state government has bypassed the contrary opinion of the Law and Judiciary department, and decided to make changes to the Development Control Rules (DCR) of Mumbai, under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act 1966 to protect slum dwellers.

According to a senior functionary of the state government, many of the owners of slums have either sold their huts or transferred them to others. A legal provision made under the Slum Act 1971 protects a person who was an occupant of the slum on 1-1-1995, and not the current owner.

The government has been trying to further the cause of slum dwellers.  At a state cabinet meeting on January 2, it was decided to incorporate suitable changes in Section 33 (10) of DCR, under the Maharashtra Regional & Town Planning Act-1966. According to protocol, for changes to be implemented in DCR the issue must allow a one-month period to entertain suggestions and objections by the general public. The state government then announced temporary protection subject to approval of the modifications in the DCR.

The decision will help six lakh slum-dwellers who have shifted after the 1995 cut-off date. But the new change will not come cheap. Occupants who moved in after the cut-off date, will have to pay the transfer fee of Rs 40,000 for residential structures and Rs 60,000 for commercial ones.

The Congress-led government attempted to extend the cut-off date to 2000, but in 2006, the Supreme Court asked the centre to issue an affidavit stating that it will not legalise slums beyond January 1, 1995. Sources at the State Housing department, headed by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan referred the matter to the Law & Judiciary department.

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