FPJ Campaign: SRA Projects Replace Mumbai's Horizontal Slums With Vertical One

FPJ Campaign: SRA Projects Replace Mumbai's Horizontal Slums With Vertical One

SRA residents are expressing regret over their decision to relocate, lamenting the cramped quarters and lack of privacy in their new accommodations.

RUCHA KANOLKARUpdated: Friday, March 01, 2024, 10:59 AM IST
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FPJ Campaign: SRA Projects Replace Mumbai's Horizontal Slums With Vertical One | Representational Image

Sunil Shriyapag, 52, was living in Shivaji Nagar slum in Chembur. In March 2017 he was relocated to the SRA project at Umarshi Bappa Chowk, Chembur. He says he has only shifted from a horizontal slum to a vertical one. In fact, life has been hell for him since he relocated.

The story of Sunil is typical of 2.56 lakh families who have been forced into badly built vertical towers. In a three-part series, The Free Press Journal will focus on the scam that is SRA.

Reality for rehabilitated slums residents

In Mumbai, where dreams soar as high as its skyscrapers, the reality for residents of rehabilitated slums remains tethered to the ground, mired in unmet expectations and challenges. Despite the government’s promises of a better life through the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), the transition from horizontal to vertical living spaces has left many disillusioned, with the vertical slums failing to deliver on their pledge of improved living standards.

Established with the vision of a ‘slum-free Mumbai’, the SRA was meant to be a beacon of hope for the city’s marginalised communities. However, the journey from slum clusters to high-rise accommodations has been fraught with unresolved issues, painting a bleak picture of neglect and unfulfilled assurances.

Bilal Khan, a housing rights activist, says, “The SRA was intended to improve the lives of people, provide better housing for the poor living in slums and chawls. Under slum rehabilitation, they should be able to live in better conditions; their living standards should improve. However, the cases we see show they are only shifting from one hell to another. Their lives are becoming worse. In many rehab buildings, some parts remain vacant, which disrupts maintenance costs. Corruption and the expense of maintenance add to the burden. They have to pay a fixed amount for maintenance, whereas earlier, they never had to pay any such amount in slums. People are shifted to far-off places, affecting their livelihoods. These aspects are not covered during project planning. Housing is supposed to be considered a right. The government says to accept whatever is given, but it is a right, not a benefit or welfare. When the government says ‘rehab’, it should increase living standards. They are facing problems such as poor ventilation, contaminated water, and many projects being disconnected from the rest of the city.”

Mumbai’s struggle to cope with rapid urbanisation

The history of the SRA reflects Mumbai’s struggle to cope with rapid urbanisation and the influx of migrants seeking livelihoods in the city. Initially grappling with the dilemma of illegal settlements, the government shifted its approach towards tolerating slum structures as a housing solution. This led to the enactment of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act in 1971, paving the way for initiatives aimed at improving living conditions.

However, despite decades of effort and the relocation of thousands of families, the reality on the ground tells a different story. Statistics reveal a staggering number of families relocated and projects undertaken, yet the lived experiences of residents paint a starkly different picture. Complaints ranging from unhygienic surroundings to safety hazards underscore the challenges faced by those promised a better life within the walls of SRA projects.

SRA residents are expressing regret over their decision to relocate, lamenting the cramped quarters and lack of privacy in their new accommodations. For many, the allure of the slum, with its sense of freedom and communal responsibility, now stands in stark contrast to the suffocating reality of vertical living.

The allure of improved living standards promised by SRA projects fades particularly during the monsoon season when ventilation issues exacerbate residents’ discomfort. The transition from chawl living to high-rise accommodations was envisioned as a step up, yet for many, it has fallen short of expectations.

Urgent need for comprehensive solutions

As disillusionment mounts, there is a growing realisation of the urgent need for comprehensive solutions to address systemic issues and ensure the well-being and dignity of all residents. Efforts to improve living conditions must go beyond mere relocation and be met with proactive measures aimed at fostering a safe and nurturing environment for those most in need.

While the SRA was established with lofty aspirations of eradicating slums and providing a better life for Mumbai’s poor, the reality remains grim. Vertical slums persist, failing to deliver on the promises made, leaving residents trapped in a cycle of unfulfilled expectations and persistent challenges.

Total families relocated: 2,56,000 families

Total projects: 2,588

Completed and occupied: 1,697 projects

Ongoing construction: 891 projects (yet to receive letter of intent)

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