Mumbai: Worli gaothan gets owner status, won't fall under SRA control
Worli residents rejoice as collector starts demarcating their land, which gives them owner status and ensures they won't fall under SRA control
Locals thick in the hurly-burly of Worli gaothan and Koliwada, both in the same locality, living on prime real estate near the South Mumbai mouth of the Bandra-Worli sea link, are delighted by the fact that their area is being 'demarcated' by officials from the Collector's office in Mumbai. The demarcation began on November 12, they said. So it means officials are marking the outer boundaries of what is known as Worli Koliwada or Worli Village.'
Several pillars and posts on the periphery have been marked with a circle having a red cross inside. Samir Netto, Worli gaothan resident, said, "We fervently hope this means we will be freed of the fear of being classified as slums and slum dwellers and have a Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) project foisted on us."
For a few years now, gaothan residents, who are East Indian Catholics, have lived in fear of an SRA project displacing them. In January, mid-day had published a report on how a notice that arrived on December 18, 2017, addressed to the East Indian Catholic Owners Association, had shocked the residents. The SRA notice had cited that the coveted pocket at one end of Worli Seaface is being targeted for a slum redevelopment project.
The red demarcation mark on a wall, which local residents hope means they will not be classified as slums and slum dwellers any more
Netto, who has at the forefront of the fight, said, "I think our meeting with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis early this year has borne fruit. He had given us some reassurance that we will be protected." Romeo Kinny, a resident, added, "We will have to see what policy the government comes up with post demarcation. This has allayed some fear. I hope we are on the right path." Gaothan dwellers collectively said, "We have property cards and are the rightful owners. We do not carry a photo pass like slum dwellers. Why are we always clubbed together?" Fulton Kinny said, "We don't want any SRA project. If need be, we can talk to private developers. Some homes here are 2,000-3,000 sqft. We want that space in redevelopment."
The Kolis were eating their lunch with relish when we visited a community hall on the premises. Chintamani Koli called the demarcation "necessary and good". Unlike gaothan locals, many Kolis do not own property cards, and they hope that the marking means they are recognised as rightful owners of their homes. An official from the collector's office, City Survey Branch, said, "The demarcation and measurements should be over in a couple of days." Koliwada residents Prakash Kharothe, Lindwall Rodrigues, Vilas Worlikar and Mangal Patil said, "We hope this is not an election gimmick," while Prasad Worlikar said, "It had better not be; if it is, we know what response to give."
As the demarcation news spread, Crompton Texeira of Kalina gaothan said, "I hope we, too, are protected and spared from the slum tag." Some Worli gaothan residents are worried that demarcation is being done for the entire koliwada. "We hope the gaothan is also demarcated, though we are literally side by side. Maybe the gaothan should be demarcated in another colour to distinguish it from Koliwada," they said. Alphi D'Souza, founder-trustee Mobai Gaothan Panchayat, an umbrella body fighting for gaothans' rights, said, "We must keep the faith. Why look at the dark side? Let us take this as a positive start and believe it's the first step towards the preservation of our land, culture and identity."
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