7-year-itch for Dharavi redevelopment project

Apr 24, 2012, 07:18 IST | Varun Singh

CAG report, recently tabled in the assembly, says seven years after its inception, the project is still in planning stages; state's slum rehabilitation scheme has failed to meet targets

If you were sceptical about the claims of Mumbai turning into a world-class city by 2013, here’s something to prove you right. The first step towards revamping the city was expected to be the Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP). However, seven years and Rs 50.95 crore later, the ground realities haven’t changed. The recent CAG report, tabled in the assembly, states that the expenditure incurred on DRP has been unfruitful and the project is still in the planning stages. The report also claims that the appointment of the consultant was not done through a transparent bidding process and he was hired on a fee of one per cent of the total project value. DRP still hasn’t had a land survey done, and doesn’t have details of slum dwellers present in Dharavi. Apart from this, it’s been a year since Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA) was supposed to develop sector V of Dharavi. The report claims MHADA has no planning even for that.

Realty check: The CAG report says the state government went into the Dharavi rehabilitation project without sufficient groundwork, and hence the Rs 50.95 crore spent so far has been fruitless. File pic

CAG has observed that though DRP is a prestigious project of the government, inception of a programme of such a huge magnitude without sufficient groundwork was unwarranted. The delay on part of government in deciding the various aspects of the project, lack of analysis of the complexities involved in the selection of PMC, eligibility of slum-dwellers, feasibility study, land acquisition process, infrastructure development study, tender process etc, rendered the spending of Rs 50.95 crore incurred on DRP unproductive.

Way off
The government, after slum rehabilitation scheme (SRS) came into effect in 1995, had targeted to rehabilitate denizens of 8.05 lakh slum dwellings within five years. However, according to the CAG report, even after 15 years, authorities have been able to rehabilitate dwellers of only 1.27 lakh slums, constituting about 15 per cent of the total number that existed in 1995. The slum population since then has grown by two folds and certain politicians also have been making demands that the cut-off date be increased to the year 2000. “As against the targeted rehabilitation of 8.05 lakh slum dwellings within five years, only 1.27 lakh slum dwellings could be rehabilitated in 15 years of implementations,” the CAG report says.

The report also adds, “There’s no evaluation of developers and the quality of construction is left to their discretion. SRA doesn’t have any database of slums to decide whether government intervention is required for redevelopment of non-viable slums.” In one of its findings, CAG has also pointed out that the Slum Act did not have any provisions regarding the quality of work rendered in SRS. The report also states that in the exit conference the principal secretary accepted the fact that there were many buildings with problems pertaining to poor construction.

Let it grow!
According to activists who have been fighting for slum dwellers, the slum population has grown from some 40 lakh to 70 lakh in the last 15 years. “Now, there would be not less than 14 lakh slum dwellings in Mumbai. The way slum rehabilitation was thought of, with the inclusion of private builders, it was more lucrative for developers because of the incentives involved. The slum population has almost doubled in the last few years and the trend would remain the same. The reason is that more slums the builders get to redevelop, more the incentives for him. Everyone from slum dwellers to top leaders of the state are hand in glove as they all benefit from the growth of slums,” said Simpreet Singh of Ghar Banao Ghar Bachao Andolan. Singh added, “We need to do away with the free housing project. When even a cup of tea is charged for in this state, why should housing be given away? Anything that comes for free is not respected and hence there should be a price tag to the houses that are being provided.”

“The figures are self explanatory that the government hasn’t been able to implement its own strategy and rid the city of the slums. It’s high time the government should come up with a new strategy and fulfill its own promise,” said realty expert Ajay Chaturvedi.

Government speaks
Gautam Chaterjee, principal secretary, housing department, Maharashtra, said, “There needs to be brainstorming on the issue to come up with a policy where entire projects aren’t dependent only on developers. The policy also will have to think about inclusion of state government’s own machinery like MHADA for redevelopment of slums that aren’t attracting developers and builders because of various reasons. The dependence of only on outsiders won’t help solve the slum issue completely, and internal machinery will also have to be used.”

Authorities on DRP
Sachin Ahir, state minister for housing, said, “Yes there’s a delay in the project. But now instead of passing the benefits to private developers we will try using MHADA’s own techniques to get the project in line. I won’t say whether appointing Mukesh Mehta is right or wrong, but in today's scenario we have our own mechanism and hence we should use that.” Dinesh Afzalpurkar, who was the head of the committee that suggested DRP, said, “It would be unfair on my part to comment on DRP, because for the last four to five years I haven’t kept any tab on the happenings.” Developer Mukesh Mehta didn’t answer our calls, neither did he respond to SMSes. Similarly, Satish Gavai, vice-president of MHADA and OSD for DRP, also remained unavailable for comment.

The true story of Dharavi

Start of DRP
October 2003: A task force headed by chief secretary and consisting of 11 government and non-government officials constituted by government to prepare an action plan for transforming Mumbai into a world-class city by 2013.
February 2004: The task force emphasised that its recommendations should be processed on fast track. One such initiative recommended was the development of Dharavi.
February 2004: A proposal of a project management consultant (PMC) Mukesh Mehta for redevelopment of Dharavi was accepted by the government on the recommendation of Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA). The government appointed the PMC with a consultancy fee of one per cent of the estimated project cost of Rs 5,600 crore. The expenditure on DRP was to be met from the resources of SRA.

Incomplete survey
April 2004: In order to identify the details of the structures on the project area, the work of Plane Table Survey (physical enumeration of land details with structures and slum dwellers) for the project started, but could not be completed.
November 2007: A fresh geographical information system based biometric baseline socio-economic survey was ordered for DRP by the Officer on Special Duty. Even this survey was not completed.

Non-acquisition of private land
September 2008: DRP covers an area of 240.35 hectares of which 57.68 hectares is owned by private parties and needs to be acquired for the project. As the land acquisition process is complicated and time-consuming, the government in September 2008 decided that the developers should do the land acquisition. If the developer fails to acquire the land, it would have to be acquired under the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Act 1976 or the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act 1976 as the case may be. It was decided to exclude 66.60 hectares of land (57.68 hectares private land plus
8.92 hectares of railway land) from DRP with a condition to merge the same in the project at a later date. Even now the process of land acquisition is not complete.

Cancellation of global tenders
June 2007: DRP invited expression of interest from developers and short-listed 19 on the basis of specified selection criteria. At the time of inviting tenders, the basic parameters like eligibility, acquiring of land under private ownership, modification of DCRs for the project etc were not finalised. CAG claims it noticed that these are still pending and owing to non-finalisation of basic parameters of the project, 13 bidders withdrew. Six bidders remained for five sectors in Dharavi.
September 2008: The OSD consulted an expert regarding the tendering process initiated by DRP and the expert found it defective. As DRP was a public-private partnership project (PPP) the invitation should have been a request for proposal (RFP) instead of bids invited by DRP. The various risks such as political risks, the risk of acceptance by slum dwellers, delays in approvals by various bodies like MCGM, trends in real estate market were not analysed by DRP. The bid document didn’t even provide for any risk sharing mitigation. Based on this, the expert suggested rewriting the RPF. However, this advice was not heeded by DRP and the bids were kept alive and cancelled only in May 2011.
May 2011: Government issued an order to award the redevelopment of one sector, i.e. sector V, through MHADA. MHADA has not yet prepared any proposal for this sector.  

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