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 Home > City Resources > Construction > Housing Reforms

 Housing Reforms

Mumbai - The Roofless City

Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh - Chief Minister of MaharashtraMumbai, the capital of the state of Maharashtra is often reffered to as the financial or commercial capital of the country. The city lights not only offer glamour and entertainment but also opportunity. Over the years it has attracted a large number of people from all over the country. Its area of about 437 houses a population of about 11 million people. The pace of urbanisation has left far behind the efforts and initiative of planners, local bodies and civic authorities.

The city has skyrises juxtaposed with one room tenements. Everywhere the eye goes one only sees buildings. The city has very aptly been called a concrete jungle. But inspite of buildings, hutments and shanties covering available space, houses are in short supply. One has often heard, "This city gives you everything except a roof over your head". This fact can be attributed to the structure of the city. The city is surrounded by water on all sides and growth occurs only in a linear manner. This is aggravated by constant inflow of people looking to fulfill their dreams and seeking their pot of gold.

Lighting the lampNiranjan Hiranandani. a prominent builder in the city says, "Roti, Kapda aur Makaan are essential needs of mankind. In Mumbai, the majority live in inhuman conditions. I believe the citizens are able to get food and clothing but we are not able to provide the requisite shelter to our citizens. Maharashtra now requires not only reform but 'Kranti', revolution."

There have been number of deliberations, a number of legislations passed totry and ensure adequate and quality shelter for majority of the citizens of the city but the effort falls short either through short sightedness and lack of initiative on the part of the governing bodies or simply due to the magnitude of the problem.

Chief secretary, Government of Maharashtra, V. Ranganathan, says, "Maharashtra is the most urbanised state in the country, contributing 10% of GDP. Good housing is not merely for comfort but is essential for economic and social development. If we have to attract the best talent and industries in competition then housing is paramount. Identification of key areas, Coastal Regulation Zones, Rent Control, Rehabilitation of Slums and Reassessment of Stamp Duty are important. Since economic slowdown is evident revenues and taxes cannot be be cut down but regulations and paperwork procedures can definitely be simplified. Decision making should be such that it can be delegated to the lowest level. Single window clearances, enforcement of time limitations and use of modern technology are areas that need to be focussed on. But above all there has to be an attitudinal change."

A Township in the SuburbsThe Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ) Notification was issued in February 1991 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India for the protection of the country's coastal environment. The implications of CRZ for the housing scenario in Mumbai is far reaching and is controversial for the same reason. Being surrounded by the sea on all sides a large stretch of area is restricted from development. Lack of rental housing, levy of stamp duty, lack of control of rent, cessed properties and property taxes are other issues that have all contributed towards hampering the efforts of providing all citizens of the city with a house.

Vilasrao Deshmukh, Chief Minister, Government of Maharashtra, says, "The administration needs to gear up, change themselves and look at every needy person as a customer. The State Government considers housing as a priority sector. Whether it is rehabilitation of slums or reconstruction of over 19000 old and dilapidated and cessed buildings in Mumbai, the State Government believes the solutions must be acceptable to the beneficiaries. The State Government has recently taken a decision to computerise the registration of documents relating to transfer of property which will enable people to get back their documents in a matter of minutes. There is a demand often made by the people that the levels of approval should be reduced in the Municipal Corporation and the files should go to as minimum number of officers as possible. I think this demand is justified and deserves a serious thought."

The people who can make a difference are aware of what needs to be done. They are aware of the activities that need to be done and of their limitations in fulfilling their promises. Inspite of the hardships faced by the average Mumbaikar in getting a roof over his head, Mumbai continues to fulfill its promise of offering opportunity to all who come looking and though "Ek ghar banaonga" continues to be an unrealised dream, there is a ray of hope. A hope that there will be a home for all the homeless and quality housing for all. A hope that Mumbai continues it's ascent towards being the city of gold, it is fabled to be.

Text and Pics by: Supriya Rathod



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