MAHARASHTRA: GADKARI’S PLAN FOR MUMBAI
The Union minister’s grand plan to revamp Mumbai’s east coast could displace 200,000 people
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 SQ. M.
per year, the rate at which 2,200 lessees got MbPT land in 1942
Industrial units and residential areas on MbPT land