Why Mulund residents are opposing the PAP and Dharavi rehabilitation by BMC and state government

18 May,2024 09:29 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Ainie Rizvi

The state government plans to rehabilitate Dharavi residents at the entry point of Mumbai city while the BMC plans to rehabilitate around 8,000 project-affected families in Mulund East. Locals tell us why they vehemently oppose these projects

Residents of Mulund protest the government decision. File pic

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Residents of Mulund East have united to oppose a massive rehabilitation program, fearing it will further strain the area's already limited resources. "Mulund currently houses 1.5 lakh people. With an influx of 3.5 lakh Dharavikars and 40,000 project-affected persons (PAPS), there will be little left for us locals," informs Mulund-based real estate agent Deepak Date.

While opposing the rehabilitation projects, the residents wrote emails, protested and even met Chief Minister Ekanath Shinde. Upon getting no response, Advocate Sagar Devre from the locality, in a writ PIL, has challenged the final notification of the Maharashtra Government to grant salt-pan lands for the creation of temporary shelters for Dharavi rehabilitation.

In an interaction with Midday, Devre highlights that the locals are enraged as the state government has passed the final notification of land allotment without taking the residents' of Mulund in confidence. Elaborating on the PAP relocation, he informs that a housing project is going on behind Maratha Mandal, Kelkar College, Mulund East where 7,439 house units are being constructed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for PAP.

Those affected due to road winding and stormwater drainage fall under the PAP category and are eligible to avail housing in Mulund East. Devre expressed concerns over the potential ramifications of such a large-scale migration as It would strain the area's infrastructure, particularly its transportation networks and parking facilities.

"When can we finally breathe?"
Gangadhar Tulsankar, a resident of Anutham Complex, Mulund East, tells Midday: "The way the construction is being carried out is problematic. From my window, I can see four 24-storeyed buildings coming up with little to no space in between them. The roads are so narrow that, in the event of a fire, fire brigades wouldn't be able to access the area to save people or conduct rehab work."

Tulsankar is also apprehensive about the socio-cultural and economic disparities between Mulund and Dharavi residents. "As middle-class, tax-paying citizens, we are not comfortable sharing space with those living in the slums. How will they, having lived in jhopdas all their life, maintain a high-speed lift or comply with our society's hygiene standards?"

Date adds to the concern, noting that slum residents who receive free housing from the BMC often sell these flats at lower prices and return to the slums. Anticipating this trend in Mulund, he notes, "Housing rates are likely to drop as people start selling these flats cheaply. This is unfair to locals who have spent their life savings on expensive flats in the area."

In case of mishaps, the locals fear that they will suffer. Tulsankar's society is at a distance of 90 ft from the PAP housing project leaving the residents with little scope of movement. "Instead of further congesting Mulund, why can't the civic body build a petrol pump for us? We have to go to the West to get fuel. There are no open playgrounds, no theatre, no space for cultural activities - we are living in dire conditions," he adds.

Calls and messages sent to BMC officials regarding these allegations went unanswered till the time of going to press.

Overcrowding in Mulund
With only one access point from the Eastern Express Highway, Mulund is already grappling with intense traffic congestion throughout the day, leading to considerable delays for residents entering or exiting the locality. Tulsankar estimated that approximately 4,000 additional vehicles would only increase the traffic burden.

Moreover, inadequate parking provisions under the project further compound the problem, with only 1000 parking spaces designated for a population surge of 40,000 individuals. The projected water consumption of 130 liters per person per day poses another challenge, especially since no additional infrastructure, such as pipelines, has been implemented to cater to this demand.

The locals have questioned the government's decision to build rental housing near the Octroi Naka dumping ground in Mulund East, citing environmental and infrastructural concerns. Additionally, Tulsankar adds that excavation and dumping work is done by the locals. "Turning the dumping grounds into housing projects will cause many people to lose their livelihoods."

Contradictory statements by leaders
Tulsankar blames the deputy Chief minister for misleading the people of Mulund. "He indicated that he cannot undo the housing project but will instead relocate people with similar cultural backgrounds as ours. I ask, is this even possible? We've lost confidence in their objectives."

Devre has also accused Mihir Kotecha, the BJP candidate for Mumbai North East Lok Sabha, of exploiting the issue solely for political gain during the Lok Sabha Elections.

Referring to the contradictory statements by Kotecha, who voiced opposition to the project while simultaneously failing to address the current issues, Devre questioned the efficacy of their claims regarding illegal migrants. He challenged them to provide concrete evidence to law enforcement authorities if such claims were genuine.

Despite ongoing protests by the locals, the state government proceeded with the project's notification on February 22, 2024, without heeding the concerns of the affected residents. Tulsankar and Date criticised this decision, arguing that the government should have taken into account the sentiments of the residents who have been opposing this move for months.

Devre also highlighted the involvement of the central and state governments in the land transfer process for Dharavi's rehabilitation, questioning the rationale behind opposing a project that is supported by the state's chief secretary. He stressed upon the hypocritical statements of opposing the project on the campaign trail while being part of the same government that endorsed it through official channels.

Knocking on the doors of the Bombay High Court
Date, coming from a housing background, proposes a more equitable distribution of housing units across Mumbai to alleviate the burden on Mulund. "People can be rehabilitated in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region which extends up to Kalyan and further." He also suggested dispersing 1000 units to locations like Vikhroli, Bandra, Santacruz and other suburban localities.

Regarding the timeline for the project's implementation, Devre indicated that surveys were underway in Dharavi, with the project expected to commence around mid-2025. Despite the lack of support from relevant departments, Devre is determined to pursue legal recourse, underscoring the necessity of his PIL in holding authorities accountable for their actions.

The issue at hand

(By Prasun Choudhari)

The state government plans to rehabilitate Dharavi residents at the entry point of Mumbai city while the BMC plans to rehabilitate around 8,000 project-affected families in Mulund East.

The state housing department had written a letter to BMC authorities asking to hand over 64 acres of land located in Mulund East to the Dharavi Redevelopment Authority (DRA). The DRA will develop a rental housing colony for residents of Dharavi who are not eligible for redevelopment. A total of 18 acres of land comes under the octroi naka while the remainder is part of the dumping ground which is now closed.

The state government housing department had written to the civic chief on January 10 asking for 64 acres of land located at Mulund to be handed over to the DRA to develop rental housing for the rehabilitation of Dharavi families not eligible for the Dharavi Rehabilitation Project at Dharavi. The letter also cited a state cabinet decision in October 2022 in this regard.

The civic body has decided to handover two plots amounting to a total of 64 acres to the state government for the rehab project.

Also Read: Outrage in Santacruz's Khotwadi: Builder denying transit rent for 6 years, erected 50 illegal flats

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mumbai mulund dharavi Gautam Adani brihanmumbai municipal corporation
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