Exclusion of Sewri chawls from revamp project to affect 960 families
The ambitious BDD (Bombay Development Department) chawls revamp project covering an area of 92
The ambitious BDD (Bombay Development Department) chawls revamp project covering an area of 92.86 acres is now facing a formidable hurdle after the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) refused permission for redevelopment of the 12 chawls at Sewri, which are situated on its land.
This effectively means 960 families staying in the Sewri chawls that spread over 5.65 acres will not be relocated to bigger 500 square feet apartments since the government has decided to go ahead with the project at Naigaon, Lower Parel, and Worli.
The issue came to light when Maharashtra Navnirman Sena student wing leader Chaten Pednekar had in January written to prime minister Narendra Modi, seeking redevelopment of the chawls at Sewri. The Prime Minister’s Office forwarded the letter to the ministry of ports, shipping and waterways, under whom MbPT comes, who said that it did not have a revamp policy and hence, this project could not be executed.
The ministry in its reply on June 1 said, “The proposal of the Mumbai Port Trust on redevelopment of BDD chawls at Sewri has been examined and it is informed that there is no enabling provision under any existing policy of the ministry to empower MbPT to enact the proposal.”
Pednekar, who resides in one of the chawls at Sewri, calls it an unjust decision.
“All the BDD chawls are in shambles and need urgent redevelopment. They are in such bad shape that they can collapse anytime and we are all living at the risk of our lives. When the government is going ahead with all other BDD chawls, only ours are excluded. What is our fault that our BDD chawls are located on MbPT land?”
He said all the chawls’ dwellers would take to the streets if they were denied the revamp benefits.
An association of BDD chawls’ residents said the Central government could not abdicate its duties citing technical issues. “Housing is a basic right and the Centre should provide them with free new houses. They cannot let these people die citing some technical issue,” Raju Waghmare, who heads the association, said.
State Minister for Housing Satej Patil said the government would take corrective measures. “We will study the letter and take up the issue with the Central government.”
The BDD chawls revamp project was launched with much fanfare on April 22, 2007 by then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. However, it could not take off for many years due to various issues like eligibility criteria, selection of contractors, and agreement issues. It was revived in August last year by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar laid the foundation stone for the project.
The BDD chawls were constructed by the British between 1920 and 1925. Nearly a century later, these chawls are highly dilapidated, with leaks and falling slabs. Hence, the state government appointed Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority as a nodal body to undertake the revamp of these chawls and form a sort of township with modern amenities.