Who will demolish the slums near the airport?

After Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati, expressed his concerns on the issue, state government babus blame airport authorities and builder HDIL for the delay; HDIL squarely blamed the state in the case

Concerned about the slums right next to the city airport, Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati, on Wednesday, wrote to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan raising a flag about the delay in shifting the slums. Now, the blame game has begun as to who is responsible. While the state government bureaucrats blame the legal tussle between the airport authority, Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL), and the builder HDIL, that was supposed to rehabilitate the slum dwellers, the builder has blamed the state government for the delay.

The entire airport land
The entire airport land belongs to the Central government. File pic for representation

A senior airport official alleged, “The contract for rehabilitation was given to HDIL four years ago, and as per the agreement they were to shift 90,000 families and begin the work. But, this did not happen. HDIL has lost all the court cases and have now got into arbitration.” The contract itself has been terminated and awarded to another organisation.

Reverse blame
However, state government is blaming the legal tussle between the HDIL and MIAL-GVK for the delay. A state government bureaucrat, requesting anonymity, added, “When the government has allotted four different places (Bhandup, Kurla, Chunabhatti, Chakala) under the slum rehabilitation scheme, why has the work not begun? The matter has stretched due to the legal matters between HDIL and airport handling authority.”

Naseem Khan, Guardian minister for Suburban District, said, “I had written a letter three years ago asking the local police and MIAL-GVK to speed up and begin the work of rehabilitation soon, but it went in vain. The Central government should pressurise the airport handling authority in order to begin the slum rehabilitation work soon.”

The land under contention belongs to the Central government. Another minister chimed in, “The entire airport land belongs to central government and it’s completely their responsibility to ensure it isn’t encroached. Evacuation of slums cannot be done by anybody apart from the central government. They cannot blame others for something that only they can do.”

Full circle
On the other hand, the builder has squarely blamed the state for the delay in demolition and rehabilitation. The official spokesperson of HDIL said, “HDIL states that the delay of the process in rehabilitation of Mumbai Airport slum dwellers is due to the eligibility norms not being finalised by the state government, which led to the termination of agreement between MIAL & HDIL. HDIL has already created 26,000 tenements for any vital public projects initiated by the Government of Maharashtra.

These tenements have been created under 3.11 of 33 (10) of the Development Control Regulations, for which TDR (Transfer of Development Right) has been generated on lands brought in by HDIL for rehabilitation of slum dwellers. This TDR has not been generated specifically to Mumbai Airport in any manner whatsoever.

The tenements have been constructed as per SRA guidelines and standards, and HDIL stands by its quality of development. The arbitration proceedings between MIAL and HDIL are currently ongoing, and HDIL had no role to play in the delay of shifting of slum dwellers on the Mumbai Airport Land caused due to eligibility norms not being in place”. MIAL did not comment on the issue.

The letter

In his letter, Union Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati has asked the CM to speed up the rehabilitation of slum dwellers around the airport, concerned about the safety of the airport premises due to encroachment.

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