Mumbai: Plans for a revamp of Kamathipura, once infamous as Mumbai’s red-light area, received a significant push on Monday with the state government planning to take up cluster redevelopment of the area, with the Bhendi Bazaar redevelopment project serving as the template.

Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad held a marathon meeting from 11:30 am to 6 pm on Tuesday at the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority's (MHADA) Bandra headquarters, during which the much-awaited redevelopment of century-old buildings at Kamathipura was discussed among other proposals.

The minister instructed the Mumbai Building Repairs and Reconstruction Board (MBRRB), an undertaking of MHADA, to prepare a report with a detailed project plan on the lines of the Bhendi Bazar redevelopment project, and submit a proposal for a further plan of action.

Kamathipura is spread over a 50-acre land parcel with around 1,000 buildings. Of these, 700 structures, including chawls, are more than a century old. The residents living in these old and dilapidated structures do so at the risk of their lives.

During the meeting, sources said, MHADA conveyed its view that redevelopment of these structures would pose a big challenge as residents are currently living in small houses measuring just 50 to 180 sq ft in area.

Speaking to The Free Press Journal, Anil Michael, a resident of Kamathipura 14th Lane, asserted that the redevelopment of old buildings in the area was the need of the hour.

“The redevelopment of Kamathipura is stalled due to the landlord system. The owners of these buildings are unable to take up the task due to lack of funds.

The government should scrap the current system. Only then will the plan see some progress. The government should acquire the land and do the needful. The buildings are too old and need immediate redevelopment,” said Michael.

Michael and his family live in a 100 sq ft home. According to him, commercial sex workers who were living in the area had largely shifted to the outskirts of Mumbai, and there are only a few of them who continue to live in Kamathipura.

A decade ago, DB Realty had proposed a plan for redevelopment of the area. However, after its promoters were accused of quid pro quo in the 2G spectrum scam, the project failed to materialise.

On Monday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray held a meeting with prominent real estate developers to discuss plans to revive the cash crunch-hit realty sector.

DB Realty’s promoters Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka, who were acquitted from the 2G case in 2018, were among the developers who attended the meeting; they have been appointed members of a steering committee that will look into real estate issues.

Pandurang Sakpal, a resident of Kamathipura and a Shiv Sena party worker, welcomed the push for cluster redevelopment of Kamathipura.

“The trust of landlords and residents should be gained first. Only then can the government undertake the redevelopment plan here. Also, the government should have a plan in place to rehabilitate the commercial sex workers who are living here for several years.”

Suresh Kale, a resident and former corporator, said, “Whether the redevelopment is undertaken by MHADA or a private developer is not the concern of any resident living here.

The residents only want that their buildings be redeveloped before any incident takes place. People are living in rickety structures and risking their lives. Increased cost of new houses and high rents are forcing them to stay in these old buildings.”

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Free Press Journal