Slum demolitions in Mumbai remain a bone of contention

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Out of the 12,750 houses that have been demolished, only 1,250 affected people have been given rehabilitation

Golibar situated in Khar (East) is the second largest slum in Mumbai. The residents, over the last few years have learnt to live with the constant threat of being rendered homeless, overnight. Yesterday, once again without any prior notification, seven houses were completely razed while an eighth one was partially demolished. Residents, along with activist Medha Patkar, who tried to prevent the demolitions, were picked up by the police. In all, 21 people were picked up at 2:30 PM and released late at night. No case has been registered.

The nature of these demolitions, starting from 2005, is what is leading activists and residents to term it as “illegal”. Residents claim that the builders and the Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA) present at the site of demolition failed to provide a demolition order. The Mumbai High Court had been approached by the residents in 2010 stating that they had not appointed Shivalik Ventures as their builders and that the 70% consent required to go ahead with the demolitions that the builders had provided was forged. Reacting to this case, the High Court had directed that no resettlement can take place until MHADA certifies that the transit camps are suitable for habitation. The High Court had instructed that a copy of these certificates should also be available for the affected residents. No such certificate has been delivered yet.

Until today, out of the 12,750 houses that have been demolished, only 1,250 affected people have been given rehabilitation. The transit camps are one-room flats with thin walls and no ventilation. The washrooms and toilets are shared. Obviously, not many are thrilled. Says Krishna Nayyar, a resident who has been involved with the resistance, “We were happy where we were. We do not want this kind of development where we have to trade our lives for transit camps that are barely livable. We are not against development; we want the right kind of development.”

Shivalik Ventures, a construction company, has ‘acquired’ 125 acres of land, affecting 26,500 people at Golibar. The residents were first served a notice in 2010 for evictions. The saga goes back to 2003 when as part of the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme, residents of Ganesh Krupa Society roped in Madhu Constructions to rehabilitate them. In 2008, Madhu Constructions transferred the right to Shivalik Ventures for redeveloping the society, without informing the affected community.

Talking to Tehelka, Satish Gavai, Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of MHADA said, “The demolition took place after due process. SRA has given the certificate stating that the transit camps are fit for habitation.” Refusing to comment on why only 1,250 people had been rehabilitated despite 26,500 houses having been demolished, he said, “That the SRA needs to answer.” The SRA was not available for comment.

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