Mumbai: MHADA Holds Key To Hope Of Over 1200 Homeless Families Of GTB Nagar's ‘Punjabi Colony’

Mumbai: MHADA Holds Key To Hope Of Over 1200 Homeless Families Of GTB Nagar's ‘Punjabi Colony’

Given the social fabric of the locality, MHADA officials say the plot is being visualised as a residential complex for affordable housing.

Draupadi RoheraUpdated: Friday, December 01, 2023, 07:17 PM IST
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MHADA | File Photo

Over 1,200 families comprising nearly 7000 people were rendered homeless last year when Mumbai Municipal Corporation decided to raze 25 old and dilapidated buildings that made up the popularly called ‘Refugee Camp’ or ‘Punjabi Colony’ of Guru Teg Bahadur Nagar (GTB) in Mumbai’s Sion Koliwada.

1200 families became homeless

The buildings were in a very precarious condition and the authorities were left with no choice but to demolish them. “First they cut our electricity and water supply for a year. Despite that many lower income families continued to stay on minus water and light, not knowing where to go. One year later, we were forcefully evacuated given the dangerous condition of the structures”, says Sunil Kumar Wig, a resident of the area.

Left with no choice, some families took shelter in the hall of the nearby Sri Dhashmesh Durbar Gurudwara where they slept and ate their meals in the daily ‘langar'. Some even received their free monthly rations from mandirs and gurudwaras while others went off to stay on rent to far off neighbourhoods like Ulwe, Vashi, New Bombay, Panvel and Kharghar!

“Bottomline is we were homeless and are savings were fast depleting. So much so that many families have sold their gold jewellery and may soon find themselves on the road”, says 32-year-old Simranjit Singh, another resident of the locality.

Spotlight on MHADA to mitigate the crisis

But today is the dawn of a new day. These homeless people are praying and keeping their fingers crossed…they are looking towards Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) for hope. If things go well they may be able to heave a sigh of relief!

With Elections round the corner when votes matter, their desperate plea before the state government asking MHADA to step in and take up the redevelopment of this plot may get the final nod in the next cabinet meeting. 

“Already we residents have been receiving WhatsApp messages asking us about our votes… from where will we be voting?…Guru Teg Bahadur Nagar? or some place else where we have taken temporary accommodation?”, says one resident on condition of anonymity. “Election ka Bazaar Hai…mahaul garam hai…Sab ko vote chahiye aur hum ko Ghar!’, he exclaims.

Home, Votes & Netas

He adds that netas are smart people…they know that to stay in power every ballot counts and so in order to garner votes, Refugee Camp redevelopment may be fast tracked!

According to local BJP MLA, Capt Tamil Selvan, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis who has had a series of meetings with the residents as well as MHADA officials is pushing the case for their redevelopment. “The residents being financially compromised are in no position to develop the plot on their own which is why they have opted for MHADA”, Selvan said.

The hitch is that these buildings are privately owned and therefore, a way will have to be worked out for MHADA to step in, says, a top MHADA official on condition of anonymity.

MHADA submits proposal

MHADA has recently submitted its proposal to the Maharashtra Housing Department for approval. “Once its passed by the cabinet it will go to Urban Development Department. They will have to figure out a method under rule 33 (9) or 33 (5) or some other rule of the Development Control Regulations to enable MHADA to develop the plot which at present is privately owned by the residents”, top MHADA officials told FPJ.

Thereafter, MHADA  will float tenders and appoint a developer. The plan is to give the residents 508 square feet area homes totally free of cost. Some portion of the plot will be given to the developer and some part MHADA will retain for resale purposes, an official said.

Given the social fabric of the locality, MHADA officials say the plot is being visualised as a residential complex for affordable housing. 

"Proposal may get nod next week"

According to them, ‘construction and development agency model’ will have to be adopted under which MHADA will not have to invest but will appoint a developer on area sharing basis. “In short MHADA will act as a facilitator and guarantor. We are stepping in on purely human grounds”, he explained.

"If all goes well, the proposal may get the nod next week," says Selvan.

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