By Accommodation World Research
- Slum Redevelopment Scheme (SRD), 1991
Thus, Sharad Pawar’s (then Chief Minister of the ruling congress government) Slum Redevelopment Scheme (SRD) was launched in 1991. The same norm was picked up by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) set up in the 1990s. The Slum Redevelopment Scheme of the SRA aimed to provide enough incentives – such as increasing the Floor Space Index (FSI) allowed in slum areas and the ability to transfer development rights to other areas of the city – for private developers and builders to redevelop slums. The theory was that by selling the extra space in the open market, tenements for slum dwellers would be cross-subsidized and made affordable to them. The state government also introduced legislation that protected slum dwellers able to establish that they were living at a particular place as of January 1, 1995. The homes of ‘eligible’ slum dwellers thus could not be demolished without their first being resettled.
Notified slums were to be redeveloped at the same site by private builders by offering the incentive of increased maximum floor area ratio (FAR) of 2.5. After re-housing slum dwellers in 180 sq. ft. (about 15 sq. m.) tenements, builders were free to sell the remaining floor space on the open market and to make profits of up to 25 % of the project cost. Thirty years lease was to be given to the co-operatives of re-housed slum dwellers. The consent of at least 70 % of slum families was necessary to implement the scheme. The slum dwellers were required to pay a certain amount of money, approximately, 1/3 in the form of a down payment and the balance in the form of a loan repayable over 15 years. Allottees were not permitted to transfer their tenement for a period of 10 years.
The scheme was a non-starter from the very beginning. Firstly, this scheme did not provide sufficient business opportunity to the investors; secondly the builders were skeptical of getting into wrangles with the slum-dwellers whereby their profits would not materialize within calculated periods. Even if they did have plans, work could not be started due to the lack of transit accommodation. Also, slum-dwellers were reluctant to give possession of their plots in the absence of alternative accommodation. They feared losing possession of their sites permanently since they did not trust the builders. They already had horrid experiences of attacks on them and forcible evictions, led by number of builders at many places in the city. One example of forcible eviction led by the builders was the demolition of the Ambedkar Nagar situated near Back Bay bus depot in 23rd April 1997. After the demolition, Pan Reality Construction Pvt. Ltd. grabbed hold of the land by fencing with wires and stones to put a stop to the entry to the land.
The scheme was criticized, as it was feared that the developers would exploit slum families. Concerns were also expressed over increases in density, and increases in consumption of water and electricity. Non-availability of transit accommodation and maintenance costs were some of the problems faced. Rates quoted by builders for the sale of flats in the open market were lower than the actual market prices due to the 25 % ceiling on profit margins and extra payments were received in black. As the cut-off date for eligibility was 1985, many slum dwellers were not eligible and this created resentments among slum communities. Although the scheme was open to co-operatives of slum dwellers, such societies faced difficulties in implementing the redevelopment projects on their own. Since the lease of the land was made available only after implementation of project it could not be mortgaged to raise institutional finance. Lack of technical knowledge and managerial skills also led to delays.
• Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRS), 1995
The provision of free tenements to 4 million slum dwellers was one of the slogans in the election manifesto of Shiv Sena, which came to power in 1995. After the change of government, the Afzalpurkar Committee further modified the SRD and the new scheme was called Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRS). Departures from previous policies were made on various levels. The scheme was opened to all slum dwellers included in the 1995 electoral rolls, including pavement dwellers. The carpet area of tenements was increased to 225 sq. ft. (approx 20 sq. m.). The tenements were to be given free of cost to slum dwellers. For every 10 sq. ft. (1 sq. m.) of rehabilitated floor space constructed in the Island City, the builders were offered a free sale component of 7.5 sq. ft. (0.5 sq. m.). A central monitoring and clearing agency was set up, and incentives were given to construct transit accommodation on vacant public lands. The builders were given incentives in the form of additional floor area, which varied between Island City, the suburbs, and difficult areas. However, on each pocket of slum land, a maximum of 2.5 FSI (Floor Space Index) was permitted. Surplus floor area, if any, could be transferred to another area under Transfer of Development Rights (TDR). Additional supports were proposed in case of proposals by the Co-operative Society which included time bound scrutiny, expert advice in technical, financial and administrative matters and an additional commercial component of 5 %. The scheme was to be completed in five years covering 2,335 slum pockets and 90,2015 huts. To strengthen the financial capacity of BMC for provision of infrastructure, a levy was proposed to be collected from the developing agency. The Slum Rehabilitation Authority was constituted for overseeing, co-ordinating and approving these schemes. The executing agencies could be co-operative societies of slum dwellers, public housing organisations, developers, contractors, charitable institutions, or private companies.
All other slum improvement programmes were to be phased out limiting the options for slums. The amendments to the Slum Act, Maharashtra Regional & Town Planning Act,
Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Act, Land Revenue Code and the Development Control Regulations (1991) were made, to restrict the scope of slum dwellers appealing to courts of law seeking injunctions against the scheme. The implementation was strengthened as all projects were to be considered as government works and police power was to be used to remove obstructions to the progress of the works.
The scheme initially generated lukewarm interest from the building lobby, which feared delays due to problems of land ownership, continuity of policy, political alignments in the community and the possible opposition by the beneficiaries after initial consent. Slum dwellers occupying more than 22.5 sq. m. were reluctant to join the scheme. NGOs are helping squatter communities in resettlement, formation of co-operatives, negotiating with authorities and improving legal literacy of squatters to fight for their rights in courts of law, prevention of arbitrary exclusion of eligible households etc. The policy has generated a lot of debate and criticism. Some felt that this is likely to open the doors to a burgeoning real estate Mafia in the city with greater scope for harassment and intimidation by builders using the police. Most of the proposals were initiated in affluent areas and significant numbers of tenements have changed hands.
For all its progressive features, the slum redevelopment scheme still did not contain proactive provisions to resettle families nor did it specify the nature of resettlement and the kinds of entitlements eligible slum dwellers would receive. The SRA promised to construct eight lakh tenements in five-six years. However, only a little over 19,000 tenements were completed in the mid-1990s. When a new government came to power in Maharashtra in 1995, one of its main election promises was to provide eight lakh free houses for 40 lakh slum dwellers in Mumbai.
• Shivshahi Punarvasan Prakalp Ltd (SPPL), 1998
In August 1998, the Shiv Sena-BJP government set up the Shivshahi Punarvasan Prakalp Ltd (SPPL). The scheme was a rehash of the earlier slum redevelopment scheme. Slum land was to be handed over to builders for the construction of commercial complexes, with the builders in turn using part of their profits to build new houses for the residents of the slum. A Rs 600 crore loan to fund the SPPL was extracted from an extremely reluctant Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA) and the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA). Unlike the earlier redevelopment scheme (where the SRA was only a facilitating agency), the SPPL actively took on the role of a builder. Private builders themselves were given the role of contractors to get them to participate in the scheme. Under the earlier scheme, the builders were expected to make the capital investment without any input from the government, and there were no profit margins. Under the SPPL scheme, the builders as contractors could provide for profit margins. The state government also soon scaled down the size of the project from eight lakh units of 225 sq ft each to two lakh units of the same size. One of the main failings of the SPPL scheme was that it depended on public land as a resource, most of which was already occupied by squatters. By the time the Shiv Sena-BJP government was voted out of office in October 1999, not even a fraction of the number of flats it had promised to build had come up.
In August 2001, the report of the S.S. Tinaikar Committee on slum rehabilitation exposed the SPP as nothing but a fraud, designed to enrich Mumbai’s powerful construction lobby by robbing both public assets and the urban poor. The Committee, headed by the highly-regarded bureaucrat S.S. Tinaikar, who retired as Mumbai’s Municipal Commissioner a decade ago, found that by the end of March 2001, only 7,461 rehabilitation tenements were ready for occupation, and another 39,146 units were in various stages of construction. The Committee found that several projects had simply been abandoned by builders. Of the Rs.73 crores that the SPP handed over to construction firms in the first two months of its existence, over Rs.50 crores is yet to be repaid. Also, building regulations were routinely violated. “Relaxation of guidelines were made,” the Tinaikar report asserts. “Funds in excess of the actual need were disbursed. Special favours to a few developers were made,” the report points out.
The Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRS) was in a sense the” mother of all bluffs” till date perpetrated on the slum-dwellers in Mumbai.
The first half of this decade has again seen its share of demolitions along with attempts to involve NGOs in slum resettlement.
• Govt-NGO Partnership in Slum Resettlement
A major resettlement of about 60,000 people was carried out with popular participation and partnerships with NGOs in the recent past for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP). The project was designed to improve the capacity of suburban trains by laying new railway lines and the extension of platforms. The project is partly funded by the World Bank. Some 15,000 squatter households living within 25 m of the track and 4,000 households around the stations had to be moved. The resettlement and rehabilitation policy recommended the provision of 20.8 sq. m. apartments for ‘project affected families’. The Railway Slum Dwellers Federation had already collected data about settlements along the tracks, mapped them, set up women’s saving groups and supported the formation of housing co-operatives. Representatives of the NGOs SPARC and the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and were involved in the policy formulation. Indian Railways carried out an unexpected demolition of over 2,000 huts in February 2001, after some pressure from media and a public interest litigation filed in the High Court by an NGO called ‘Citizens for a Just Cause’ to evict slums along railway tracks without any resettlement. However, the state government assured the courts of a time-bound resettlement. Within a year a population of 60,000 was shifted into apartments in four and seven storied buildings and a few families were shifted into single storied transit accommodation (MMRDA, 2002).
Resettled families had a mixed response. On the one hand they are happy to have secure tenure and access to basic services but on the other hand the resettlement location offered fewer employment opportunities and led to increased travel costs for a few.
This brings us to the present where more than 80,000 houses have been demolished by the state government since 8th December 2004.
What appears to emerge is that the only consistent policy of the state has been that of slum demolitions while the passing decades has witnessed a different avatar at every turn with regard to the crucial issue of providing housing for the poor. Until the 1970s clearly the state played the role of provider obviously reflecting the nature of a welfare state. This changed in the 1980s, which saw the marked influence of the World Bank and implementation of its policies. During this period the role of the state undertook a change from provider to facilitator where the slum dwellers were to build their own houses in rehabilitation according to a particular design. The 1990s on the other hand has witnessed the telling influence of the builder lobby in the name of public-private partnerships. This trend continues to date though there is indication that in some instances the state is encouraging the participation of NGOs as well.
Thus the policies show a trend of the government withdrawing from housing sector and increasing the private participation in the housing sector. But increasing the private participation in housing also was not successful as the builders and the developers who were providing housing for the poor were motivated by profit interest. Rather than helping the poor the private participation even increased the misery of the urban poor. Both the private sector and the public sector failed to cater to the housing needs of the poor. Thus neither the public sector nor the private sector, there is a need of the intervention of the third sector that is the NGO’s, which is a part of civil society.
Our urban planning has not only been unbalanced and without a vision to foresee the future needs of the towns and cities in general, it has also been highly discriminatory to the poor in terms of making provisions for their accommodation facilities and the basic services needed for their everyday existence. In the name of creating an orderly, hygienic and aesthetically pleasing environment, the urban planning denies the poor access to adequate housing and environment. The example of Subhashnagar, Wadala where all the residents were residing near the Don Bosco School for about 15 years or more prior to November 1993. But part of the settlement were demolished on May 10, 1993 no notices were given prior to the demolition. The police had even resorted to lathi charge and several persons suffered injuries. The site from which they were evicted from near the Don Bosco School has now been made into a ‘garden’. There are numerous examples to show that the middle class notion of beautification which led to the demolition of many a slum. One of them being the Sanjay Gandhi Nagar in Nariman Point where people came for construction work and settled there in the construction site and areas, which were unsuitable for development work. It was not long before the people they served expressed their distaste for them as neighbours. The Cuffe Parade/ Colaba Residents Association brought pressure upon the local authority to remove them from sight. As a result, in 1980 the municipal authority demolished the colony. Having nowhere to go the people simply rebuilt their huts. In 1981 and 1986 they were demolished again until one NGO came to there rescue and acquired a land for their rehabilitation.