Adivashi has been reporting about the pathetic conditions of infrastructure in Navi Mumbai’s rural areas due to the reckless and unplanned construction and about those living dangerously in CIDCIO constructed 30-year-old buildings. Finally, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel as the promises made by Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik and his family of elected representatives of getting an extra FSI for redevelopment of these buildings are set to materialize, albeit with a caveat.

First the good news is that the Prithviraj Chavan government – often accused of delaying decisions – has now cleared cluster development plan for Thane, including Navi Mumbai, with an FSI of 4 to regularize 30-year old buildings. The cluster needs to have a minimum land of 4,000 sq m. FSI (Floor Space Index) is the percentage of construction allowed on a piece of land by the municipal authorities.

Meanwhile, CIDCO also okayed an FSI of 3 for the redevelopment of buildings constructed by it. Prima facie, it may look fine, but it comes with a qualifier that half of the FSI will be given to the owners of flats. The remaining FSI of 1.5 is to be reserved for amenities and commercial sale by the corporation. This so-called concession by CIDCO comes in the backdrop of an NMMC proposal for an FSI of 2.5 so that a developer can build new flats free of cost for the residents and make his money from the free sale floor space index.

Now the bad news is that both the plans are in danger of hanging fire. The Opposition is hell bent on pricking holes into what they call as Naik’s bubble of cluster development since it is “designed to help him and his supporters mint money”. Their allegation is that Ganesh Naik and his family already wield control over civil contractors and developers and their fear is that other contractors may not get a chance. It is known that many of city’s corporators or their kin have interests in civil contracts or supplies. So the question that arises is: Are they fighting over social or business interests?

Even the CIDCO proposal of splitting the FSI of 3 is bound to meet with resistance as Naik himself said “some people told me they are moving the court”. On his part, the Minister promises that he will ensure that the FSI of 4 and cluster development will be an inclusive one and it will cover CIDCO constructed buildings as well. One major stumbling block for the plan is that the land in nodal areas is owned by CIDCO which has leased it out to residents. Will CIDCO allow freehold to residents? This is a multi-crore rupee question!

But Naik says he will showcase the benefits of cluster development with an FSI of 4 at his native Bonkode village which, like many other rural areas in the city, has expanded in all directions breaking down the infrastructure. Adivashi promises to keep an eagle’s eye on this.

Now, let us turn to the non-NMMC area of Navi Mumbai – the airport project site. The land mafia appears to be active, despite the official ban on any structures without explicit permission from the notified developer CIDCO. Hundreds of illegal structures are coming up in the 25 km radius – and slightly beyond – with unscrupulous developers showing the airport carrot to sell their properties. Earlier, the village panchayats and district authorities could permit development most of which was not exactly planned. These powers have since been frozen after the government appointed CIDCO for development of Navimumbai International Airport Notified Area  (NAINA). The issue here is that CIDCO is yet to come up with development rules and invite objections and suggestions and then send the draft for approval of the State government which is a time consuming process.

All those developing without any approval hope that their structures will too be regularized some day or the other! CIDCO has itself has served notices on over 300 such structures. A moot question that arises is that why is CIDCO allowing such structures to come up in the first place?

Apparently in a mighty hurry to escape the model code of conduct that will come into force anytime for the Lok Sabha poll, NMMC standing committee has cleared proposals for Rs 100 crore worth contracts, including road repairs. But what raises many an eyebrow is the fact that some roads which have been repaired just around the last monsoon are also being dug up and re-laid. For instance, the road between D Mart and the mosque at Kopar Khairane remains in a state of permanent repairs. Adivashi would like to point out to the elected representatives to find better ways to spend the tax payers’ money.

This is the 62nd in a series on Navi Mumbai by veteran media professional B N Kumar, a long time resident of Mumbai’s twin city. He can be contacted at: mailbnk@gmail.com

B N Kumar

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