Mumbai: Two years into their struggle, over 1,200 residents of Sion’s GTB Nagar Punjabi Refugee Colony are still homeless. The 25 buildings in the area were declared C1 (extremely dangerous and unfit for habitation by the BMC) and the occupants have been forced to move out. Mainly middle class families, mostly working in garages, as taxi drivers or insurance agents, have expressed discontent and helplessness as they have not been offered any transit accommodation as theirs is a private property.
The underlying problem is that 201 tenants in 19 out of 25 buildings have not taken the Sanat certificate that proves their ownership rights. The application today requires them to pay a penalty of 4 per cent on ready reckoner rates if they have the proof of being refugees. Non-refugees, however, need to pay a penalty of 20 per cent on the property’s ready reckoner rate. If a flat, for instance, is valued at Rs 20 lakh, the penalty will also run into lakhs.. Besides, there is an additional penalty for non-clearance of stamp duty fees and property tax, among other taxes.
One of the residents, Sunil Vijan, said the government should consider their grievances on a mercy basis. He said, “Though MHADA carried out a feasibility report in March 2020, no action has been taken.” Other residents said that though the BMC evicted them two years ago, it continues to charge property tax and impose penalties on it.
Another resident Sachin Vyas said the amount runs into lakhs for every house and no builder today is keen to carry out redevelopment. “If government waives all these dues, the project will become viable for the developer,” he said, adding that several homeless families live in rented houses and don’t have the financial means to spend on weddings of their children. “Moreover, many of the families have their savings in PMC Bank, which has been restricted by the government due to alleged irregularities,” he said.
An elderly and disabled resident, Sanjay Bhatia, said he earns his livelihood by selling insurance policies. He said a single window clearance to check eligibility of Punjabi Refugee Colony tenants should be created. “This will expedite the process,” he said.
Meanwhile, state housing minister Jitendra Awhad, when told about the plight of the residents, assured The Free Press Journal that he will conduct a meeting and make all possible efforts so that redevelopment of this colony can take place.
How is it possible to give Partition certificates today? The rule means many will fall under the non-refugee category and pay a penalty of 20% on the RR rate--Sachin Vyas
The penalty and pending dues on all types of taxes should be waived. Moreover, on lines of BDD chawl, our colony should be taken up for redevelopment and our rightful houses should be given back.--Sunil Vijan
A single window clearance to check eligibility of Punjabi Refugee Colony tenants should be created. This will expedite the process.--Sanjay Bhatia