Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has taken up the interest of washermen/ rassi holders to ensure smooth implementation of the slum development scheme of Dhobi Ghat on Dr E Moses Road, and has appointed two advocates as commissioners to take stock of the ground situation. The project is being developed by Resonant Realtors Projects Pvt Ltd (earlier Omkar Realtors PPL).
A division bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) on November 10 by Dr Vijay Uma Shankar Mishra, who has sought the welfare of washermen undisputedly engaged in their traditional family profession of washing clothes at Dhobi Ghat.
The washermen have been using a particular plot where stones with cubicles have been fixed for over a 100 years. These cubicles are operated on the license extended to them by the BMC. The plot where these cubicles are situated is a heritage site. The adjoining plot is used for traditionally drying clothes on drying line /rassi / rope. The persons engaged in this activity are called rassi holders.
Washermen Extended Full Support To SRA Scheme, But Want Welfare Of Community
The Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) proposed a slum development scheme at the site, where the clothes are being dried, since the entire area was earlier a slum. The petitioners contended they had no objection to the scheme, but wanted to ensure that the interest of the washermen/ rassi holders was protected.
Agreeing, the court noted that “the washermen belong to the lower strata of the society and ours being a welfare state has to be alive to their problems and accordingly it becomes the duty of the court to protect their rights, specially the constitutional rights”.
The petitioner raised concerns over non-payment of transit rent on a regular basis to washermen/ rassi holders and also inadequate transit accommodation/ space for drying the clothes. It sought that these workers should be provided adequate space for drying in the developed building.
The judges noted that considering the “scarcity of space and also taking into account the rapid strides made in technology, it would be appropriate if in the building these workers are provided a mechanised facility.
The court appointed advocates Ranjeev Carvalho and Vikramjeet Garewal as advocate commissioners to visit the current transit accommodation and ascertain the adequacy of the space available. They have also been asked to ascertain the number of genuine workers affected by the scheme and whether the transit rent is being paid regularly. The judges have asked the SRA explaining how and in what manner, the “mechanised facility” will be provided. The HC has kept the matter for hearing January 10, 2023.