The Union min­is­ter’s grand plan to re­vamp Mum­bai’s east coast could dis­place 200,000 peo­ple

India Today - - STATES - By Ki­ran D. Tare

Union min­is­ter Nitin Gad­kari’s grand pro­posal to build a state-of-theart in­fra­struc­ture and recre­ational hub on 34 hectares of land on Mum­bai’s east coast has set off a ve­he­ment ag­i­ta­tion. The im­mi­nent re­de­vel­op­ment on the Mum­bai Port Trust (MbPT)— owned real es­tate, ex­tend­ing from Co­laba to Wadala and beyond, is set to evict some 200,000 peo­ple in­clud­ing res­i­den­tial ten­ants and steel traders. They have now re­vived the long-dor­mant Mum­bai Port Trust Ten­ants’ As­so­ci­a­tion to op­pose the gov­ern­ment.

The MbPT had is­sued suc­ces­sive no­tices to the res­i­dents and busi­nesses at Darukhana, ask­ing them to pay rents as re­vised by the Supreme Court in 2012. It was sig­nif­i­cantly higher than the Rs 5 per square me­tre per year on which the land was first leased out to some 2,200 lessees in 1942. Over the years, many of the orig­i­nal lessees have ei­ther il­le­gally sold or sub­let the land.

The trou­ble started in 2014 when Gad­kari an­nounced that the new hub would come up on MbPT land on the east coast. As per the plan, ten­ants in south­ern­most Co­laba will not be evicted if they agree to pay the yet-to-be­de­ter­mined re­vised rentals. But the cen­tral part—Darukhana— which is the core area for the pro­posed devel­op­ment, is to be va­cated com­pletely. On March 31, MbPT sealed a build­ing that houses some 80 busi­nesses for fail­ing to de­posit rent.

Ra­jiv Khan­del­wal, who heads the Darukhana Iron and Steel Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion, says be­sides the thou­sands of lost jobs, the evic­tions will cause a huge loss of rev­enue to the gov­ern­ment. The Darukhana traders con­trib­ute Rs 50 crore in GST per month on steel im­ports from In­done­sia and China. Khan­del-

wal al­leges that af­ter fail­ing to re­cover rentals for decades, the MbPT has been stirred into ac­tion only be­cause of Gad­kari’s grand plan.

A top port trust of­fi­cial, how­ever, points out that there has been no re­newal of leases, orig­i­nally given in 1942 for pe­ri­ods rang­ing from one to 15 months. Call­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion un­law­ful, the of­fi­cial says the lease deeds have no re­newal clause. “Their time is up,” he says rather dra­mat­i­cally.

The Gad­kari plan for Darukhana in­cludes a suc­ces­sion of ware­houses that would di­rectly get goods from the Jawa­har­lal Nehru

Port. This would halve the cur­rent traf­fic of 200 trawlers and 1,200 trucks that con­gest and pol­lute Mum­bai on their way to ware­houses in Bhi­wandi near Thane ev­ery day.

The MbPT had pro­posed an al­ter­na­tive site to re­lo­cate the busi­nesses. But the Darukhana steel traders re­jected the pro­posal, com­plain­ing that the au­thor­ity was be­ing se­lec­tive, and Gad­kari’s min­istry, for its part, did not pro­duce the nec­es­sary ap­provals.

Preeti Shenoy, a house­wife, is one of those cry­ing ‘foul’. She points out that while the gov­ern­ment is spend­ing crores to re­ha­bil­i­tate slum dwellers, le­git­i­mate busi­nesses and homes are be­ing up­rooted. “Is it our fault that we are not liv­ing in slums?” she asks. MbPT of­fi­cials re­main un­moved: “Slum re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is a na­tional pol­icy,” they say. With the op­po­si­tion up in arms and his promised trans­for­ma­tion of the east coast still a dis­tant dream, Gad­kari is bent on step­ping things up. He is keen to show­case the project ahead of the elec­tions next year.



per year, the rate at which 2,200 lessees got MbPT land in 1942


In­dus­trial units and res­i­den­tial ar­eas on MbPT land

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