No man's land owners

Families in Sion's Prateeksha Nagar will tell you why residents of cessed buildings prefer to take a chance than move to MHADA's transit camps

Two generations of the Munshi family have grown up in Prateeksha Nagar, Sion. Yet, this 180-sq-ft tenement with one room and kitchen isn't their real home. That is back somewhere, they say, near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. On a trip there recently, they couldn't find it.

Gangaram Sarvankar and wife have lived in transit since 1991
Gangaram Sarvankar and wife have lived in transit since 1991 

"My husband must have been six months old when his family moved to this transit camp in 1971," said 45-year-old Veeramma Munshi, a homemaker. "We've been here ever since. When I got married in 1988, my husband's brothers and their wives were also here. Since the house was small, they eventually moved out."

The family has been battling the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) for their rightful CST flat with little hope. "My father-in-law, who originally moved here, died, and we are also getting old," she says.

Last Tuesday, when Krishna Niwas, a 50-year-old dilapidated building in Thane, collapsed, killing 12 of its residents, many asked why residents resist giving their cessed buildings up for redevelopment to MHADA. The Munshis are your answer.

Ironically, the government has now mooted a redevelopment plan for its transit camps
Ironically, the government has now mooted a redevelopment plan for its transit camps 

And, all their neighbours. Nearly 10,000 families live in various transit camps across the city, of which the one at Prateeksha Nagar, which houses 40 buildings and 8,000 families, is the largest. Set up in the early '70s, it is also the city's oldest, which means several of its residents have been waiting for decades for MHADA to complete its job, so that they can return home.

Not really an upgrade
Residents of old and dilapidated buildings that have been cessed (buildings where they lived as tenants were owned by MHADA and they had to pay a small amount to the agency for upkeep of the structure), are provided alternative residence at transit camps while the housing agency rebuilds their homes as per the Development Control Rules. Currently, there are 16,000 buildings on MHADA's cessed and dilapidated list.

Although they are called transit homes, MHADA doesn't really set itself a deadline on finishing the projects. And, apparently neither does it promise better homes during the 'transit' period.

 

"Water seeps into the house, the wooden roof is giving away," complains 54-year-old Kamal Mane, a resident of C-18, since 1993. She says her late husband had bought a tenement at a building in Mody Street. When it went in for redevelopment, they were sent here. "I had to go to court against a particular eviction notice, but I won the case. Now I am allowed to stay here. But I want to go back to the home my husband bought for me," she adds.

Redeveloping the transit camp, now
In May this year, the government admitted that a delay in redevelopment had prevented the transit camp occupants from moving back to their original homes. However, in its proposed housing development policy, it wants to redevelop the transit camps, so that its now permanent residents have a home to call their own. Some, like Gangaram Sarvankar's family will welcome the proposal.

His family moved here in 1991, from Kamathipura. "My sons and daughter grew up here. They have spent their childhood here, but now, the flat seems small," says the 69-year-old. His wife Sadhana asks: Will the government ever rehabilitate us in a bigger flat? It's a question that will probably go unanswered. MHADA spokesperson Vaishali Sandansingh and minister for housing, Prakash Mehta did not responded to our calls.

 

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