In an election year the Democratic Front government is in a hurry to dole out several poll sops to lure voters. The state government has approved a proposal to legalise slums which have been constructed in Mumbai till the year 2000. This decision is expected to benefit 4.5 lakh households and about 15 lakh slum dwellers.
The government is going ahead with the decision even though this matter is pending with the Supreme Court. According to a senior minister the government is planning to amend the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act with immediate effect. The proposal to regularise the slums which have come up between 1995 to 2000 was included in the government’s 2009 poll manifesto.
Diwakar Raote, Shiv Sena MLA said it’s a politically motivated decision. He said, “Since the Lok Sabha election is just round the corner hence the party had taken a decision to regularise the slums which have come up between 1995 to 2000. It is a ploy of the government to garner slum votes.”
Shaina NC, BJP leader said that the state government is indulging in vote bank politics. She said, “It was merely a political lollypop for the voters. With an eye to on the upcoming election the state government is trying to lure slum voters by announcing this policy.”
There was immense pressure on Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to clear this proposal. Party leaders insist that this decision will pave way for a slum-free Mumbai. Minority affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan, who is also the guardian minister of Mumbai suburbs, said that he has been pursuing the issue for many years, as it will help in making the island city slum-free.
When AV contacted Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, MLA Pravin Darekar, he refused to comment about this issue and said, “I don’t want to speak about this matter. MNS Chief Raj Thackeray will be the right person to comment about this issue.”
Social activist and AAP leader Medha Patkar dubbed the decision of Maharashtra government to regularise slums built till 2000 as an “election gimmick” mocking the poor people in the city.
“The Congress-NCP coalition had fought three elections on the poll promise of homes to slum dwellers but had failed to act on it for more than a decade,” Patkar added.
In a landmark judgement in 2006, the Bombay High court had set the cut-off date as January 1, 1995 and had slammed the government saying, “The answer to encroachment on public lands is not legalising further encroachment…no nation, no state or the rule of law can survive if illegalities are continuously legalised in the guise of social obligation. The state which has a constitutional duty to protect all the citizens cannot wear the mantle of Robinhood, by depriving the tax payer of his right by protecting and rewarding law breakers.”
In order to avoid any legal hassles the government is likely to extend the pre-election dole through a Bill. The cabinet decision, sources confirmed, will be announced in the on-going Assembly session.
The cut off dates have been repeatedly advanced since 1975. First the Congress pushed it to 1980 and then 1985, then the Shiv Sena-BJP regime advanced it by 10 years.
After this decision, there is a possibility that prices of slums will increase manifold in the metropolis.