BMC struggles to find homes for displaced Mahul residents

Updated: Jan 30, 2020, 07:19 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Despite SC ruling and Sena promise, BMC unable to find alternative homes for the displaced, as SRA, MMRDA and others drag their feet

Mahul residents have developed skin diseases due to the toxic fumes released by the factories and refineries surrounding the area. File pictures
Mahul residents have developed skin diseases due to the toxic fumes released by the factories and refineries surrounding the area. File pictures

For over a year, the BMC has been trying to resolve the grievances of Mahul residents, who are suffering from high pollution levels, but is unable to find alternative homes for them. Requests sent to government agencies — SRA, MMRDA and Shivshahi Punarvasan Prakalp (SPP) — for 3,000 tenements each have not yielded any results, as they don't have enough to spare.

Civic officials said that after former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis formed a special committee to look into the Mahul issue early last year, the BMC had written to SRA asking them for 3,000 tenements. The committee is chaired by the civic chief and includes officials from MHADA, MMRDA, SRA and SPP. "The bulk of our tenements for project-affected people are located in Mahul. We can't relocate those living in Mahul since we do not have the required number of tenements elsewhere. We had written to SRA about it around eight months ago, but they replied saying that they need the ones they have, and would not be able to give us any," said a senior civic official.

According to the rules, those who have been residing in hutments constructed before 2000 are eligible for new homes under SRA. But based on the regulations introduced in 2018, those who settled between 2000 and 2011 are also eligible, provided they bear the construction costs of the houses.

Mahul residents have been suffering from skin diseases and other health problems due to the high pollution level of the area
Mahul residents have been suffering from skin diseases and other health problems due to the high pollution level of the area

None to give

The SPP too has none to spare but they have decided to clear a backlog of tenements they were supposed to hand over to BMC two years ago. "They had handed over 190 tenements a couple of years ago. When we requested for 3,000 tenements, they gave another nine located in different buildings of P North ward while one still remains pending," said the official.

When contacted, S B Mhatre, general manager (finance) of SPP said, "The SRA gives us tenements from time to time. We have 2,300 permanent transit camp tenements of which 1,600 are vacant. However, they are reserved only to provide transit accommodations and they can't be given to BMC for permanent rehabilitation." Another SSP official said that since the tenements were located in different buildings, it was difficult to keep a track of the vacant ones. He added that they were yet to hand over a tenement to BMC since a housing society was currently using it as their office and was unwilling to vacate it.

BMC to get some

The BMC had also written to MMRDA in September last year. In a response sent last month, MMRDA said it was short of tenements. The reply stated, "MMRDA currently has a stock of 4,200 vacant tenements out of which 1,500 are located at Mahul. The balance 2,700 tenements are not sufficient to meet the current requirement of 7,600 tenements for various infrastructural projects."

Last year, MHADA had agreed to give 300 tenements to the BMC, which would be handed over to them by the end of this month. However, MHADA has placed conditions for using them. "MHADA has asked for rent and an 11-month agreement for the tenements as well. Another condition is that the flat can be allotted to tenants only for a period of three years. We cannot rehabilitate people from Mahul under these conditions," said the civic official.

When contacted, a senior MHADA official said, "The tenements have been ready for some time but the occupation certificate from the BMC is pending. As for the conditions, all our tenements are given out on temporary basis. However, the BMC can put forth their concerns and we can reconsider them after discussion."

One of the residents, Anita Dhole said, "Be it SRA or MMRDA or MHADA, they are all part of the government and the chief minister should intervene and find a solution to this problem. People's lives are at stake here. Everyone staying in Mahul has been living in the city for four generations and they rightfully deserve a home rather than being slowly poisoned here." Despite repeated attempts, Deepak Kapoor, CEO of SRA, could not be reached for comment.

3,000
No. of tenements the BMC had asked each agency for

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