Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Urban renewal and slum clearance

Surat Municipal Corporation [SMC] has achieved an important mile stone today, 20th of July 2010.Northern bank of river Tapi has been cleared of the last slum pocket.This comprised of nearly 3000 dwellings at Bapunagar in Adajan. Most of these slums were erected on government land and hence unauthorized. Yet, all of them have been given alternate houses of their own.At different locations.Since last 10 years, Central government has been allocating funds under JNURM for such urban improvement projects.SMC, though ruled by BJP, has made good use of these funds to provide houses to the urban poor.

As a citizen of Surat, I am only aware of what SMC has done in this field.[It has plans of zero slum city by end of 2010].It has constructed more than 20,000 houses and shifted most of the city's slum dwellers to these houses.Funds have come from the Center [ JNURM], State and SMC's own resources.How many other cities have attempted this? if yes, what is the outcome?

If Surat could do this, it should be possible for Mumbai, Delhi,Kolkota and host of other cities.Bombay is now more famous as Slumbay, since every second city dweller in Mumbai is forced to live in a slum, which is likely to be unauthorized. Delhi is our heritage since the time of lord Krishna , when it was Hastinapur, seat of Kuru Panchals. River Yamuna flows through Delhi.This holy river has been turned in to an open sewer by modern rulers of Delhi.Time for citizens of our capital to attempt and remove all slums from the banks of Yamuna and clean up the river.For Delhi, funds should not be a problem.In fact, it is not for any people centric project anywhere in the country.

Mumbai's case is different.More than 5 million Mumbaikars live in slums.People keep hearing about Dharavi, where some projects have been taken up.What about other slums? vast tracts of open waste lands are available north of Dahisar.These should be developed as alternate housing zones for the slum dwellers.JNURM will not be adequate for this.What is the way out? [a] Shift Aarey colony out of Mumbai and auction off this land to developers for constructing 100 story self contained towers,[b] Shift IIT Powai along sea board near Vasai and auction off this land to the highest bidder,[c] Auction off Raj Bhavan at Malabar hill [ yes!] and shift Governor's residence to Nagpur.[d] Allow the house of Godrej to shift all its manufacturing activities out of Mumbai and grant permission to them to turn entire Godrej land at Vikhroli in to a huge housing complex with buildings reserved for slum dwellers [e] Enact laws that encourage people to invest in houses for leasing them out.This measure is needed to provide leased houses to new comers......List can go on.

As a nation, we no longer suffer from the resource crunch.Need is to have a vision, political will and administrative accumen.People living in urban India await all of these.Surat Municipal Corporation appears to be an exception.May it become a rule !

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