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Why is Medha Patkar on Indefinite Hunger Strike since April 4th, 2013 at Golibar in Mumbai

Written By Krishna on Tuesday, April 09, 2013 | 12:12 PM

The Golibar SRA, Demolitions, Indefinite Hunger Strike by Medha Patkar at Golibar, Mumbai.

What’s the big issue?
The corruption and nexus between the Government and Builders under the cover of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) in Mumbai, that has led to lakhs of slum-dwellers struggling for the basic right to a house. The most recent example is collapse of a 8 storey building in Mumbra, constructed within a span of 2-3 months leading to death of more than 70 people.
What’s wrong with SRA?
SRA authorises private builders to redevelop slum land. The slum-dwellers are moved into vertical establishments, and the land that is thus freed up, becomes available as a free-sale component in the property market. Privatisation also means that the government is not responsible for maintaining transparency and quality. Since the money to be made from new land sales in Mumbai is extremely high, there is a vicious competition amongst the builders to woo the slum residents.
Moreover, SRA only authorises a house to those people who can show their citizenship until 1995. It also gives the power of go-ahead to the Builder if they can attain approval of 70% of the people in a society. These 2 facts are exploited by the Builders to practise extortion, fraud and forgery at the ground level, and have become the common practise to lure societies into signing a deal with them.
A date based cut-off to the Right to a House, and limited participation of a government agency, have made the SRA into a pro-Builder scheme. This needs to be rectified.
But why redevelop slums? Aren’t they illegal in the first place
Today 60% of the population of Mumbai lives in slums. Those recognised under SRA have paid Assessment Tax to the government. The people living here comprise the major part of the people working in the service industry and small-scale industries. Slums are not a result of squatting, but instead because of a lack of low-cost housing options. This big gap in housing development has left only very high-cost options that the poorer people cannot afford.
So is SRA the only scheme for redevelopment?
It is the most prominent one in place to resettle slums. Others look into Project Affected People (PAP) – people forced to move because of development of Highways, high-tech parks etc. For settlements that came into being after the cut-off date of 1995, there are currently no schemes at all.
Why now? What’s the urgency?
This is not a recent struggle. People of the slums have been fighting for their rights since 2004, when vast areas of slums in Mumbai were razed to the ground by the Vilasrao Deshmukh government to convert Mumbai to Shanghai. The Adarsh Housing Scam, Hiranandani Developers Land grab are examples of the extent to which a handful of powerful people are robbing the common man of a basic right to shelter.
Another such instance is the history of ‘redevelopment’ in Khar Golibar, wherein 140 acres of land- home to 46 societies and over 26,000 families - has been literally gifted to a single private company – Shivalik Ventures, by invoking a special clause – 3K- of the SRA. This clause gives a single builder complete rights to redevelop a large slum without inviting tenders.
A small society of 323 houses in Golibar – Ganesh Krupa – has become the flash point for the struggle between the SRA/Builder nexus and the Slum dwellers, ever since it slapped a case of fraud and forgery on Shivalik Ventures, the builder that forcefully undertook the rights to their development. 6 forced demolition drives over the past 1 year led to the society appealing to Medhatai Patkar and ‘Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao’ for help.
She undertook a 9 day fast in May 2011, which resulted in formation of two committees to look in to the irregularities and corruption in SRA schemes and another to look in to regularisation on slums. However, none of these committees were made functional under pressure from builder lobby.
Once again, when the whole world was celebrating the beginning of a new year, working class of Mumbai dwelling in bastis marched for two days to continue their camp in Azad Maidan for ten days which resulted in another investigation committee under Principal Secretary, Housing, Government of Maharashtra to look in corruption and irregularities. Some bastis were identified where R.A.Y. should be implemented. Mandala (Mankhurd) basti was identified as one of the 'Pilot project' being on priority and it was decided that process should be started at the earliest and the orders for demolitions were asked to be taken back. By the directions of Honorable Chief Minster, the investigation procedures of these 6 SRA projects is being carriedout under the chairmanship of Honorable Devashsih Chakravarty.
On February 7-8th, 2013 in S.R.A. Office the hearing was called out for these 6 SRA projects, under the chairmanship of Honourable Devashish Chakravarty, Principal Secretary (Housing department's) wherein MHADA officials, Deputy Collector and Additional Collectors were present.
Directions were given by the Chief Minister, that no evictions and demolitions would be undertaken while the investigations are on, but on April 2 – 3rd, in presence of hundreds of policemen and bouncers of Shivalik builders, demolitions were carried on in Ganesh Krupa Housing Society.
On April 2nd even Union Minister for Housing and Poverty Alleviation Ministry, Mr. Ajay Maken wrote a detailed letter, asking Maharashtra government to not go ahead with demolitions but even then 43 houses were demolished. Why, when the Ministry of Environment and Forest ordered demolition of Adarsh Housing Society, over illegalities even then it stands tall on Mumbai's coast, working class of Mumbai asks ?
CM Shri Prithviraj Chauhan on several occasions assured Medhatai Patkar and Andolan of an inquiry into the matter of Golibar demolitions, and the larger issue of redevelopment of slums in Mumbai, no action has been taken over. This has forced Medhatai to go on an indefinite fast to get justice once again, within a span of two years.
What’s the history of Ganesh Krupa Society?
The slum housing the Ganesh Krupa Society consists of 324 tenements. The slum was declared in 1997 and the rehabilitation scheme was approved in favour of M/s Madhu Construction Company, to which the slum dwellers were amenable. The Slum Rehabilitation Authority had issued a Letter of Intent bearing No. SRAIENG/819/HE/PULOI dated 3rd October 2004 in favour of Madhu Constructions, however due to financial constraints and pressure from big companies, Madhu Constructions could not undertake the project and hence entered into a Joint Venture Agreement with Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. on 3rd March 2008, without the knowledge of the slum dwellers. Thereafter Shivalik Ventures indulged in forging documents to procure the Letter of Intent bearing No. SRA/ENG/1188/HE/ML/LOI dated 20th August 2009. The crucial resolution dated 7th February 2009 of the Society approving of and giving consent to the company to carry out the development itself has been fabricated by Shivalik Ventures, in respect of which criminal proceedings initiated by the slum dwellers are pending. However, relying on the fraudulent document and consequential actions Shivalik has succeeded in obtaining favourable orders from the Courts and began forcible and illegal demolition of houses in the slum. While 167 families have voluntarily shifted, but 48 houses were demolished in January 2011, and on 19th and 20th May 2011, 24 houses in total were demolished, and 43 houses on April 2-3, 2013..
The slum dwellers have already initiated criminal action in regard to the fraudulent document purported to be the General Body Resolution dated 7th February 2009 and can always avail of the necessary civil remedies available to them, there is one another important aspect that is of mammoth proportions and consequences, and this being the link of this, and other projects of Shivalik Ventures, to the 2G scam.
Who is Shivalik Ventures?
Unitech owns 50% of shares of Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. even as per its own website and Annual Report 2009-10 (page 52). The Annual Report 2009-10 of Unitech further provides under the heading “Capital Commitment” that:
Investment in 10,00,000 equity shares of Rs. 10 each at a premium of Rs. 9990/-per share aggregating of Rs. 1000 crore has been made in joint venture company, Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. An Amount of Rs. 442.77 crore has been paid against the allotment of fully paid-up shares. The balance securities premium of Rs.557.23 crores will be accounted for on payment.”
As pointed above, Shivalik Ventures, in turn, has entered into an agreement of Joint Venture on 2nd March 2008 with M/s Madhu Construction Company to jointly develop Ganesh Krupa slum at Golibar.
It is important to highlight the period during which Unitech has entered into re-development of slums in Mumbai since it corresponds to the period during which it illegally secured thousands of crores in the 2G scam. The Director of Unitech has been included in the charge sheet filed by CBI and has been under arrest since then. And as per the CAG report, Unitech after availing the Spectrum licence in September – October 2008 for Rs 1658 crores subsequently sold it off to Telenor company at the rate of Rs 6120 crores. According to CBI, Unitech was alloted Unified Access Service licenses in 22 circles for Rs.1,658 crores, 60% of which it offloaded to Norway’s Telenor even before roll-out.
We are apprehensive that this illegal gratification enjoyed by the Company has been diverted and invested in its 50% equity at the Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. and the same is being channeled into the developmental projects of Shivalik Ventures including the slum projects in Golibar.
Why is Medha Tai Patkar on an indefinite fast again ?
Previous attempts to initiate corrective action from the government’s side have met with no success. Along with Medhatai, a large delegation of 10,000 strong from different slums in Mumbai had even marched to Azad Maidan in January to raise the issue of redevelopment. Despite this, the police and builders men entered Ganesh Krupa with impunity and razed it to the ground with a bulldozer. An indefinite fast is now the only alternative left. Demands of the Andolan are Following :
  1. The enquiry in respect of 6 S.R.A. Projects, under the chairmanship of Principal secretary, Housing, is in progress since 13th January, 2013. We demand that the work in all these projects should be stopped untill the report of the enquiry is completed and actions taken on the recommendations.
  2. If demolitions are being carried out in accordnace with court rulings but the preconditions put forth are not met, main issues and allegations of corruption through forgery, fraudulent consent are not resolved etc., then in such cases project work should be stopped and no further demolitions be carried.
  3. In cases where the residents have submitted self development projects or wish to submit the same, they should be sanctioned and encourgaed and started immediately.
  4. S.R.A. Should ensure that in case of ongoing S.R.A. Projects all conditions in L.O.I. should be complied with.
  5. The L.O.I. of the developer should be withdrawn wherever the developers have submitted forged / false documents or wrong information in violation of the L.O.I – as in case of Shivalik builders.
  6. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra has agreed to implement 'Rajeev Awas Yojana' in the slums of Mumbai instead of S.R.A., on 2nd January, 2013. However these very slums are being buldozed even today. So, the displacement of these slums should be stopped till R.A.Y. is implemented. The same was conveyed to the State Government by the Union Minister Ajay maken on April 2, 2013.
  7. Pilot projects in respect of slum at Mandala, Mankhurd under the R.A.Y. Have already been submiited to the state as well as Central Governments. That should be approved and implemented at the earliest.
  8. Civic amenities (like water, toilets, nallahs, roads ) should be provided to all the slums immediately as per the written assurance given by the Municipal Commissioner.
  9. The Chief Secretary had given a written assurance on 25th May, 2011 that 19 bastis as agreed in the list, after 9 day fast by Medha Patkar, will be decalred slums within 3 months. There is no action on this assurance till date. The same should be done. The Chief Minister, and the Principal Secretary, Ministry of Housing had premised again in January, 2013 to complete this action during discussions held with them. They also gave a written assurance to that effect. The displacements that are being carried out at present are, therefore, grossly unjust and hence should be stopped forthwith.
  10. Shri Ajay Maken, Minister for Housing and Urban poverty alleviation, Government of India has written a letter to the Chief Minister, Maharashtra state on 2nd April, 2013. The Chief Minister should declare his stand on the letter in writing.
  11. The land of Sathe Nagar should be given for R.A.Y. . This land is currently under the hold of Bombay Soap company.
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