CEO of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) Satish Lokhande
CEO of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) Satish Lokhande
Photo Credit: B L Soni

Q: How is SRA helping developers at a time when the real estate sector is facing a financial crisis?

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad have reviewed all slum redevelopment projects. They have had a discussion with SRA officials and various other stakeholders. Upon the state government's directive, we have allowed deferment of nine months on payment of various types of premiums during the COVID-19 period. The GR has already been issued and we have started implementing it at our level. Developers who were supposed to pay maintenance deposit of Rs 40,000 per tenement before obtaining commencement certificate (CC), have been given an option of depositing the money until they obtain occupancy certificate (OC) of rehab houses. Apart from that, instead of paying 5% bank guarantee on private land and 2% on government land, developers have to pay a flat 2% for all categories of land. Moreover, they are seeking relaxation on premium payments for open space for rehab buildings. Earlier the developer had to sign the consent agreement with tenants by the time letter of intent (LOI) was obtained, but there is also a proposal to defer it till CC, so they can get some time, if approved.

Q: How is SRA encouraging ease of doing business?

Previously, the files used to move from six tables, which has been reduced to three and we are implementing auto DCR (Development Control Regulation), a software that allows building plans to be submitted online for approvals. Besides, all NOCs will be given in 15 days and project acceptance at our level will be done in a time-bound manner.

Q: How many slum redevelopment projects are currently on?

SRA was established in 1995 and the Chief Minister is the chairman; state housing and urban development ministers are its members. Till date, SRA has issued 1,856 letter of intents (LOIs) and five lakh rehab houses were to be constructed, of which two lakh houses have already been delivered and the remaining are in process. There are 370 SRA projects stuck for various reasons. For instance, 260 projects are stuck due to lack of finance, 63 due to internal dispute between tenants and developers, while nine are pending for non-payment of rents to the tenants, 11 due to legal disputes, 13 due to CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone), four due to civil aviation, four due to Minister of Environment and Forest change (MOEF), six due to defence hindrances.

Q: A criticism of slum redevelopment projects is that the rehab component is given less attention than the saleable component. How is this being addressed?

We have proposed that the quality of rehab houses and buildings be just like saleable buildings, and that builders delaying those projects be penalised. However, these decisions are in the consideration stage at the state level.

Q: Lack of investment has led to delay in slum redevelopment projects. Can you please elaborate on this?

Talks are on at the ministry level to create stress funds for stuck slum redevelopment projects and a cabinet decision on the same is expected. Besides, various proposals have been sent to the urban development department for certain changes in DCR to expedite slum projects, and a decision on that is also awaited.

Q: How do you see the road ahead for various slum redevelopment projects?

With provision of these facilities, developers will eventually show keen interest in slum redevelopment projects. We will have a time-bound programme for pending houses and other issues. Focus will be on accessibility to all besides maintaining transparency.

Q: How can Mumbai become slum free?

We have special encroachment squads, which will help take action against non-consenting people as per the law. On several occasions, it was found that a majority of slum dwellers support a project, but due to a few people, the project gets stuck. In such cases, the squad will help. We do not have such security forces, but now we are creating them. The Deputy Collector will be the competent authority of the squad. Besides, we will have security from Maharashtra Police and local police assistance will be sought as well.

There are more suggestions at the consideration stage at the Urban Development Department and at minister level. For instance, there are various competent agencies, so annexure preparation of eligible tenants takes a lot of time. A proposal has been put forth to the state government of bringing all competent authorities under SRA. Apart from this, certain amendments have been suggested to the Slum Improvement Act.

Currently, tenants who have been termed ineligible by the Deputy Collector appeal to the Additional Collector and then to the Grievance Redressal Cell (GRC). But, it has been proposed to ease the entire process. If approved, henceforth, the appeals of those deemed ineligible by the Deputy Collector will go directly to the GRC.

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