Bombay High Court asks Maharashtra government to consider scrapping 70 per cent consent for slums

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Mumbai:  Mumbai's poor could finally get proper homes to live in more quickly. With 2,000 slum clusters spread across the city and nearly 55 lakh people living in slums, redevelopment and rehabilitation of project-affected-people is a major issue.

The most contentious issue is the norm that makes 70 per cent consent of slum dwellers mandatory before a developer can start construction for a Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) project.

But now, in a judgment delivered by the Bombay High Court, says, "The requirement of obtaining consent of 70 per cent from out of thousands of slum dwellers even in town development schemes only helps slum-lords and it does not really help the slum dwellers. State government ought to realise this and make special provisions for township Redevelopment Project for appointing the developer on its own and doing away with the requirement of obtaining consent of slum dwellers."

The Maharashtra government has not yet decided on whether it will comply or challenge the order. It points out the observation came in just one specific case.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan told NDTV, "We did not want that to happen because a 3K order should not be meant for a designated agency or a particular developer. So we have cancelled that order but the High Court has some different things to say. We are studying the order and we will see if that order is the correct order and accept it. Otherwise we will think of challenging it."

While the opinion among slum dwellers is divided on the issue, the industry has welcomed the observation of the court. Shailesh Vaidya, President of the Indian Merchant's Chamber says, "I think more land would be available and more land would be eligible for the SRA. This would definitely be a benefit more particularly for an island city like Mumbai where land cannot be manufactured."

Activist Medha Patkar who went on a hunger strike earlier this year protesting against fraud in obtaining consent is unhappy with the court's observation and insists beneficiaries cannot be by-passed and must have a say. She told NDTV, "It is very obviously happening now that the consent is not properly taken but that does not mean that the consent clause should be squashed. It is rather necessary to impose consent procedures so that the cooperative will function as a cooperative. Per acre slum redevelopment is helping every builder earn at least 70 crores of formal official legitimate profit and more than that the informal profit through corruption. So this is giving the builders a freeway and it is a pro-builder judgment."   

The implementation of the Bombay High Court's observation could change the entire manner in which slums like these are redeveloped and projects like these are rehabilitated especially in a city like Mumbai where the lower income groups live in slums like these and are starved of proper residential spaces. 

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