Maharashtra’s progress in Rajiv Awas Yojana slow, says missive

Union Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Ajay Maken on Tuesday wrote to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, asking him to stop demolition of the houses of slum dwellers, after a delegation of the National Alliance of People’s Movements headed by Medha Patkar met him in New Delhi.

He asked Mr. Chavan to see that the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) was implemented in the spirit of achieving a slum-free State.

No basic amenities

Ms. Patkar had informed the Minister that a list of 19 slum communities was finalised in May 2011 by the Maharashtra government for notification or declaring them slums. However, Mr. Maken noted, this process was not yet completed, resulting in denial of basic amenities to lakhs of slum dwellers residing in these areas. This also resulted in no funds being invested in new development plans there, depriving the poor of a decent shelter and basic infrastructure, he said.

In the absence of a notification, private builders and developers were allegedly taking advantage of the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme and grabbing land from slums by evicting the poor and using it for commercial purposes and for making huge profits, Mr. Maken pointed out. “You will agree that slum dwellers, who build and serve the cities like Mumbai, when evicted without an alternative, face immense injustice, harassment and deprivation of their basic right to shelter.”

Mr. Maken said the Union government launched RAY in 2011 and Central assistance was being extended to States that were willing to assign property rights to slum dwellers and undertake reservation of land for economically weaker sections/low income groups, earmark 25 per cent of the municipal budget for basic services to the urban poor and bring in legislative amendments and policy changes to redress land and housing shortage. Fifty per cent of the cost of providing basic civic and social infrastructure and amenities of housing including rental and transit for in situ redevelopment of slums was to be borne by the Centre.

Already Rs. 944.67 crore has been released to Maharashtra as the first instalment for survey work in 18 cities. But the State’s progress in RAY work was slow, Mr. Maken said, adding it needed to pick up. It was a matter of concern that no money was allocated by the State to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, where the problem of slums is the acutest.

Unlike other States which have pilot projects and which submit regular projects under RAY, Maharashtra had not done anything. Mr. Makhen also referred to a pilot project under RAY for redevelopment of the Mandala slum in Mumbai, a proposal for which has been submitted to the authorities but not yet been approved or forwarded to the Centre.

Mr. Maken said demolitions must be stopped until 21 slum communities were declared notified slums.