The corruption and nexus between the Government and Builders under the cover of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) in Mumbai, that has led to lakhs of slum-dwellers struggling for the basic right to a house.
What’s wrong with SRA?
SRA authorises private builders to redevelop slum land. The slum-dwellers are moved into vertical establishments, and the land that is thus freed up, becomes available as a free-sale component in the property market. Privatisation also means that the government is not responsible for maintaining transparency and quality. Since the money to be made from new land sales in Mumbai is extremely high, there is a vicious competition amongst the builders to woo the slum residents.
Moreover, SRA only authorises a house to those people who can show their citizenship until 1995. It also gives the power of go-ahead to the Builder if they can attain approval of 70% of the people in a society. These 2 facts are exploited by the Builders to practise extortion, fraud and forgery at the ground level, and have become the common practise to lure societies into signing a deal with them.
A date based cut-off to the Right to a House, and limited participation of a government agency, have made the SRA into a pro-Builder scheme. This needs to be rectified.
But why redevelop slums? Aren’t they illegal in the first place?
Today 60% of the population of Mumbai lives in slums. Those recognised under SRA have paid Assessment Tax to the government. The people living here comprise the major part of the people working in the service industry and small-scale industries. Slums are not a result of squatting, but instead because of a lack of low-cost housing options. This big gap in housing development has left only very high-cost options that the poorer people cannot afford.
So is SRA the only scheme for redevelopment?
It is the most prominent one in place to resettle slums. Others look into Project Affected People (PAP) – people forced to move because of development of Highways, high-tech parks etc. For settlements that came into being after the cut-off date of 1995, there are currently no schemes at all.
Why now? What’s the urgency?
This is not a recent struggle. People of the slums have been fighting for their rights since 2004, when vast areas of slums in Mumbai were razed to the ground by the Vilasrao Deshmukh government to convert Mumbai to Shanghai. The Adarsh Housing Scam, Hiranandani Developers Land grab are examples of the extent to which a handful of powerful people are robbing the common man of a basic right to shelter.
Another such instance is the history of ‘redevelopment’ in Khar Golibar, wherein 140 acres of land- home to 46 societies and over 26,000 families- has been literally gifted to a single private company – Shivalik Ventures, by invoking a special clause – 3K- of the SRA. This clause gives a single builder complete rights to redevelop a large slum without inviting tenders.
A small society of 323 houses in Golibar – Ganesh Krupa – has become the flash point for the struggle between the SRA/Builder nexus and the Slum dwellers, ever since it slapped a case of fraud and forgery on Shivalik Ventures, the builder that forcefully undertook the rights to their development. 6 forced demolition drives over the past 1 year led to the society appealing to Medhatai Patkar and ‘Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao’ for help.
Although the CM had earlier assured Medhatai Patkar of an inquiry into the matter of Golibar demolitions, and the larger issue of redevelopment of slums in Mumbai, no action has been taken for over two months. This has forced Medhatai to go on an indefinite fast to get justice.
What’s the history of Ganesh Krupa Society?
The slum housing the Ganesh Krupa Society consists of 324 tenements. The slum was declared in 1997 and the rehabilitation scheme was approved in favour of M/s Madhu Construction Company, to which the slum dwellers were amenable. The Slum Rehabilitation Authority had issued a Letter of Intent bearing No. SRAIENG/819/HE/PULOI dated 3rd October 2004 in favour of Madhu Constructions, however due to financial constraints and pressure from big companies, Madhu Constructions could not undertake the project and hence entered into a Joint Venture Agreement with Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. on 3rd March 2008, without the knowledge of the slum dwellers. Thereafter Shivalik Ventures indulged in forging documents to procure the Letter of Intent bearing No. SRA/ENG/1188/HE/ML/LOI dated 20th August 2009. The crucial resolution dated 7th February 2009 of the Society approving of and giving consent to the company to carry out the development itself has been fabricated by Shivalik Ventures, in respect of which criminal proceedings initiated by the slum dwellers are pending. However, relying on the fraudulent document and consequential actions Shivalik has succeeded in obtaining favourable orders from the Courts and began forcible and illegal demolition of houses in the slum. While 167 families have voluntarily shifted, but 48 houses were demolished in January 2011, and on 19th and 20th May 2011, 24 houses in total were demolished.
Unitech owns 50% of shares of Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. even as per its own website and Annual Report 2009-10 (page 52). The Annual Report 2009-10 of Unitech further provides under the heading “Capital Commitment” that:
“Investment in 10,00,000 equity shares of Rs. 10 each at a premium of Rs. 9990/-per share aggregating of Rs. 1000 crore has been made in joint venture company, Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. An Amount of Rs. 442.77 crore has been paid against the allotment of fully paid-up shares. The balance securities premium of Rs.557.23 crores will be accounted for on payment.”
As pointed above, Shivalik Ventures, in turn, has entered into an agreement of Joint Venture on 2nd March 2008 with M/s Madhu Construction Company to jointly develop Ganesh Krupa slum at Golibar.
It is important to highlight the period during which Unitech has entered into re-development of slums in Mumbai since it corresponds to the period during which it illegally secured thousands of crores in the 2G scam. The Director of Unitech has been included in the charge sheet filed by CBI and has been under arrest since then. And as per the CAG report, Unitech after availing the Spectrum licence in September – October 2008 for Rs 1658 crores subsequently sold it off to Telenor company at the rate of Rs 6120 crores. According to CBI, Unitech was alloted Unified Access Service licenses in 22 circles for Rs.1,658 crores, 60% of which it offloaded to Norway’s Telenor even before roll-out.
We are apprehensive that this illegal gratification enjoyed by the Company has been diverted and invested in its 50% equity at the Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. and the same is being channeled into the developmental projects of Shivalik Ventures including the slum projects in Golibar.
Why is Medhatai on an indefinite fast?
Previous attempts to initiate corrective action from the government’s side have met with no success. Along with Medhatai, a large delegation of 10,000 strong from different slums in Mumbai had even marched to Azad Maidan in April to raise the issue of redevelopment. Despite this, today the police and collector’s men have entered Ganesh Krupa with impunity and razed it to the ground with a bulldozer. An indefinite fast is now the only alternative left. These are the demands:
· Revoke 3k clause and thus cancel the agreements between builders and SRA for the 6 projects where 3k has been applied.
· Review SRA scheme itself and modify it to allow Self-development as an option.
· Implement Rajiv Aawas Yojna across the slums in Mumbai. This scheme is not biased like the SRA and promises a house to everyone without one, irrespective of a date.
What can I do?
Stand in support of the movement, by sending your delegations or representatives to golibar. Help us to pressurise the CM to cancel the 3K clause across Mumbai, and implement the Rajiv Aawas Yojna. Spread the word to the media, and/or, cover the story yourself.