City fails to provide homes for those displaced by infrastructure projects

With dilapidated, hazardous and out of bound buildings rehabilitation remains a distant dream for thousands of project affected people.

Gangaram Hivrale has been making trips to the ward office to ask about the “promised” rehabilitation. However, he is yet to get a positive response. It’s been six years since his family was evicted. In 2017, the Bombay High Court had ordered removal of houses for the security of Tansa Pipeline and also ordered rehabilitation based on the 2000 cutoff date for informal housing. 

“Every time we go to the ward office to ask about our status of Annexure-2 finalization, we are told there are no houses available in the city. We have all the documents yet, we have to live on the streets for 6 years now because there are no homes available to us for rehabilitation.” 

There are many citizens like Gangaram who are affected by one or the other infrastructure projects and waiting for housing. On the other hand, the status of vacant housing for Project Affected Persons (PAPs) is of serious concern. 

Our data analysis showed that less than one percent of the 7694 houses available with BMC for PAP are actually available for allocation. The vacant houses are in short supply and the ones that are available, are not livable. 

Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), a non-governmental organization working in different informal settlements across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) has found many instances where families were evicted for infrastructure projects, but continue to live in poor housing conditions without getting rehabilitation.

Severe shortage of tenements   

We filed multiple Right To Information (RTI) applications to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to find out the status of vacant PAP tenements in the region. The data points to a grim future for those seeking or eligible for rehabilitation housing. The data was collected between September 2022 and January 2023. 

graphs for distribution of houses for rehabilitation
graph on availability of tenements

MMRDA, through which the state government creates PAP housing tenements, has built 60 Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) colonies. The colonies have a total of 584 buildings and 69,434 tenements. A large number of these tenements were constructed around the turn of the century and are located in the peripheries of the MCGM  (17 out of 56 colonies in MCGM are in M-east ward, the ward with the lowest Human Development Index)  or in other municipal corporations of MMR. 

More than 90% of the total PAP housing stock with MMRDA, 62,951 tenements to be precise, has already been allotted by either MMRDA itself (47,000) or by MCGM and private companies executing public projects (14,615).

This leaves 6,354 tenements vacant with MMRDA for upcoming rehabilitation needs. A large number (40%) of these are in the M-east ward or outside the MCGM limits in Panvel, Thane and Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation limits (20%). 

Read More: Is the BDD chawl redevelopment Mumbai’s chance for course correction in urban planning?

Role of MCGM and SRA

MCGM is responsible for rehabilitations in evictions caused for projects that it executes in the city, such as Development Plan (DP) road construction and widening, DP amenities, nallah construction and widening. Though MCGM is responsible for creation of crucial civic infrastructure and the subsequent need for rehabilitation, it doesn’t itself create rehabilitation tenements. The corporation is given or has to purchase tenements from MMRDA, Shiv Shahi Punarvikas Prakalp (SPPL) and SRA for its PAP needs. 

Out of the 584 buildings, 483 buildings have been registered as Cooperative Housing Societies taking over some parts of management and 32 colonies have been handed over to MCGM. This is important, especially when concerns of ‘rehabilitation’ need to be addressed by the MCGM, which is the service providing agency.

empty buildings meant for rehabilitation
Empty but uninhabitable tenements in Mumbai. Pic: YUVA

At present the vacant tenement stock available with MCGM, is 7694 tenements. Though this seems like a large number, most of them are uninhabitable for the following reasons: 

  • Prohibited by High Court: The use of Eversmile colony for rehabilitation in Mahul Gaon under MCGM has been prohibited by Bombay High Court as the air quality in the region is hazardous for human health. This accounts to 3826 tenements or nearly 50% of vacant PAP tenement available with MCGM. 
  • Dilapidated: Two colonies – SG Chemicals and Videocon Athithi in Vashi Naka (Chembur) have remained vacant for nearly 20 years and are now in a dilapidated state and cannot be allotted for rehabilitation. This accounts to 2328 or 30% of vacant PAP tenements available with MCGM. 
  • Allotted but transfer pending: There are 9 different sites where MCGM has 1489 (19%) vacant PAP tenements. However, these tenements have already been allotted for rehabilitation for different projects and will be transferred to PAPs in the coming days. Therefore, these tenements also remain unavailable to MCGM for allotments in upcoming rehabilitation needs. 
  • Un-allotted: The data provided by MCGM in November 2022 showed that MCGM only had 51 or less than 1% vacant PAP tenements that can be allotted for upcoming projects. 

Further, the MCGM takes tenements for PAPs from Slum Rehabilitation Schemes across the city. The RTI data of the past ten years shows that only 2778 tenements have been transferred by SRA to MCGM for rehabilitation. 

While MCGM has very few tenements to allocate for rehabilitation, the civic body is in dire need of nearly 36,500 homes as pointed out by Mid day. In the same report, the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai had explained how “the MCGM can construct only 2000 tenements on its own plots.” 

Bleak future for rehabilitation 

Multiple instances from the past few years already show anxiety on part of affected persons and MMRDA on not being able to deliver rehabilitation. The data on vacant housing  points to a very bleak picture for project affected persons in the city. 

In such a situation both MCGM and MMRDA have come up with monetary compensation instead of rehabilitation tenements as compensation for project affected persons. Housing rights activists in the city have regularly pointed to the flaw of monetary compensation as it does not solve the housing issue. Such a mechanism is likely to drive people to search for slum housing given its affordablity and also drive the working class out of the city . 

This analysis also raised a few important questions  on the politics of rehabilitation housing and its future:  

The now vacant housing created in Eversmile layout in Mahul and the dilapidated structures in Vashi Naka R&R colonies represent a complete waste of public resources and neglect of authorities . Who is accountable for such decisions and what can be done with the dilapidated structures?

How can the housing rights of marginalised slum residents be protected in such scarcity of resettlement tenements in the city?

Can monetary based compensation replace resettlement and rehabilitation as a method of compensation to Project Affected Persons in the city when it doesn’t necessarily solve the housing crisis in the city?  

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