Friday, July 17, 2015

Another wait for alternetive housing for Mumbai slumdwellers, as Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna "replaces" UPA scheme

Dharna by slumdwellers on July 16
By Our Representative
Around 55 per cent of the population of Mumbai -- India's financial and business capital -- which lives in slums has been asked to make another  wait: Living in  slums, they will have to wait for a Government of India decision seeking a new "policy change" on how to rehabilitate them for alternative housing. This was revealed at a meeting well-known social activist Medha Patkar and her colleagues Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan with Maharashtra chief secretary Swadheen S Kshatriya.
A statement issued by the activists following the meeting quoted the chief secretary as telling them that he has sought "a fresh proposal (for the rehabilitation of families evicted thrice since 2004) under the new housing policy called Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojan, which would replace the Rajiv Awas Yojna."
Delegation had gone to meet the chief secretary a little more than a fortnight after the demolition of makeshift bastis which had cropped up in Mandala area, which is in Mumbai's outskirts. For nearly more than a month, since May-end, they were protesting for the right to affordable housing, but activists said, what they received was "violent police action."
The authorities not only demolished the makeshift structures in Mandala, but proceeded to break down their structures in Mankhurd under the pretext that they "needed to protect the mangroves that border the settlement", which is next to the sea shore. Interestingly, a day after the eviction the land reportedly was being handed over to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority to build a Metro Rail yard.
Two years ago, the Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, had promised the residents of Mandala affordable housing via a pilot project sponsored under the Rajiv Awas Awas Yojana, whose nameplate was changed to Pradhan Mandri Awas Yojna in June third week while making an announcement. Officials are not yet clear what this scheme offers.
Women participants at the dharna
Ever since 2004-2005, when over 80,000 homes were demolished in a city-wide campaign in Mumbai, including parts of Mandala, the residents of numerous settlements across Mumbai and a handful of middle class activists formed a movement for the right to a home in the city called the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (Save Housing, Build Housing Movement).
In May-end, the movement picked up, with thousands of people from Mandala and supporters from other slums of Mumbai under the banner of the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan launching a month-long campaign, even as collectively occupying the land that has been lying vacant since the demolition nearly a decade ago.
They built temporary structures on spaces where their homes used to be and marched into every government office that dealt with their demands, but were told that their matter was under consideration.
Led by Patkar and other activists, sitting on a dharna on July 16 before a delegation was allowed to meet the chief secretary, they were joined by local politicians, who in their speeches said that the new Maharashtra government had "failed" to address the issues of the urban poor, especially of housing, and is bogged down in Chikki scam to the tune of Rs 260 crore.
“Government should add ‘smart slums’ to their agenda as well while making huge investments in the name of smart cities as living a dignified life is not entirely the business of rich”, said Medha Patkar while addressing the gathering.
“We don’t want a house for free, we want a policy (housing) which invite people’s participation in building houses as was there in Rajiv Awas Yojna”, said Shriram, a basti leader, who was also a part of the delegation which met the Chief Secretary. The dharna was withdrawn with a warning of a massive agitation if the issues of urban poor were not addressed soon.

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