NAGPUR: The ‘slum-free city’ tag will always remain a distant dream. The state government has continued the tradition of regularizing unauthorized slums and distributing ownership rights on encroached land to slum-dwellers, creating obstacles in making the city free of slums.
The state’s Urban Development Department (UDD), on August 27, decided to regularize slums on land owned by Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) until January 1, 2000. The cut-off date announced by the earlier government was January 1, 1995. The governments before that have been revising the cut-off dates since 1971.
In fact, it is likely that the government will announce the cut-off date of January 1, 2000, for all unauthorized slums established on land owned by the state government, Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC), railways and other departments. Despite the change in government, there seems to be no end to regularization of unauthorized slums for political mileage.
If slum-dwellers are given ownership rights on encroached land, they do not move away from the slums. This was seen even when the UPA government announced Basic Service For The Urban Poor (BSUP) project in 2007-08. The motive was to rehabilitate slum-dwellers into flat schemes with all basic amenities and rid the city of slums by 2014-15. Under the BSUP, NMC had prepared a detailed project report to construct 80,000 flats or dwelling units in the first phase, followed by more in future. Funds were approved for construction of 9,829 units in first phase but NMC could construct less than 3,000 units.
Even the BJP-government at the centre has announced the ‘Housing For All Project’ and set a target to make available flats for all poor, including slum-dwellers, to make the nation free of slums by 2022.
Retired chief engineer from NMC Prakash Urade said slum-free city will never be possible if distribution of ownership rights to slum-dwellers continues. “It encourages other people to continue establishing slums. Re-orientation and redevelopment projects should be effectively implemented in time-bound manner to make the city free of slums,” he said.
Urade gave the example of some good projects going on in Mumbai and Thane, where builders are given slum land. Builders construct flat schemes and rehabilitate slum-dwellers in the units. They construct flats and commercial structures and sell these on the front portion of the land to recover the cost. Flats are also provided to those not having houses. “Similar schemes should be executed in slums at prime locations instead of distributing ownership rights and encouraging slums,” he said.
East Nagpur MLA Krishna Khopde said redevelopment will be done once all slums are regularized. “Proper layouts will be prepared and developed in coming days. The poor have to be given ownership rights since they are unable to own houses and get basic amenities,” he said.
Congress corporator Praful Gudadhe said ownership rights should be given to slum-dwellers, and making a slum free city or nation is not a dream of the Congress. “Government should come up with proper plans and not dreams that cannot be fulfilled,” he said.