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Civic body attempts to regularise encroachments...again!

Saturday, April 23, 2011
By Gajanan Khergamker

After the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) ran into rough waters with their slum rehabilitation scheme in the early nineties when it attempted to “free up open spaces,” by implementing schemes on plots reserved for open spaces such as the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) which would house encroachers and new tenants on 67% of the plot, while giving back only 33% as an open space to the city, the civic body looks set to do a repeat.

Then, it may be recalled, Citispace had gone to court, demanding a stay on the policy. The Bombay High Court, in 2002, stayed all such schemes and in 2003 said it would review every such scheme proposed on plots earmarked for open spaces.

Now, once again the BMC is attempting to bring encroachments  near slum rehabilitation schemes under the scheme to help free open spaces. Incidentally, NGO Citispace has maintained that of 600 open spaces in Mumbai in all 2,99,675.25 sq mt, or 74 acres, were encroached upon.

According to the proposed policy, the BMC would first identify slums around an encroached plot and check if there’s a slum rehabilitation scheme on nearby. In the contigency of one being available close at hand, the authorities aims to bring the slum in the open space into the scheme.

Now, there’s a legal lacuna to the entire ordeal that puts a spanner in the works. The Bombay High Court’s 2002 stay and comments to review every such scheme proposedon plots earmarked for open spaces will need to be analysed before the BMC takes any steps.

To ‘satisfy’ Mumbaikar’s dogged determination to ensure that the city earns her open space, the BMC’s attempts to free the city of the slum congestion through bringing them under the slum rehabilitation scheme seems like asking for trouble. For one, the authenticity of the slum-dwellers and their valid domicile will need to be ascertained before the authorities decide to validate their position in law. A slum’s identity and legal status may need to be ascertained before its dwellers are rehabilitated through the slum rehabilitation scheme.

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