No more mill worker projects till MHADA gets Rs 500 crore

A controversy of sorts is brewing in the city with regard to MHADA building any more homes for mill workers.

Not about luck: Thousands of mill workers protested last month over how MHADA conducted a lottery without fixing the criteria for those eligible for housing. They were also demanding free housing. Pic/Shadab Khan

The authority had recently completed building 6,925 flats to be offered to mill workers at the cost of Rs 7.50 lakh per unit, and the MHADA had held a lottery on June 28.

The authority has borne construction expenses, including the cost of holding the lottery, which has worked up to over Rs 500 crore.

The projects spread across the city, but mostly in South Mumbai, have been completed and are pending allotment. MHADA has decided not to go ahead with any more such projects if the government approaches it. If approached, then officials say it would only be fair if the government pays for costs incurred so far on the earlier project.

MHADA’s current fears are that the government would expect it to construct 4,000 more homes for mill workers.

MHADA’s VP and CEO Satish Gavai said, “If the government wants us to construct any more homes for mill workers, my first demand would be that it first gives us the money we spent on construction of earlier flats. If I don’t ask for the money, then it would be a very bad business deal.”

Currently, around 1.5 lakh mill workers are waiting for flats from the government on mill land. The task of providing affordable housing to such a large number in the city is one that only MHADA has proven it can handle.

A senior MHADA official said, “Our main objective is to provide homes to the common man, for which we should be utilising our funds. If we divert all our funds for construction of mill workers’ homes, then our main objective would suffer.”

According to another officer, additional worries MHADA is facing are demands by a certain group of mill workers for free housing.

“We know that the government won’t give free housing and it has clarified that fact. But what if it does happen? Who will cover what we have invested in making homes for mill workers?” the officer asked.  

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