Right to housing has been declared to be a basic right for all people, and yet,-particularly in the large urban centers,- it has been found almost impossible to implement this right meaningfully. I am reasonably familiar with the situation in Mumbai as also the frauds masquerading as solutions towards this problem. I shall attempt here to offer a tentative framework which could perhaps act as a starting point for this exercise. I know about Mumbai, and am therefore focusing on a solution for this City, but this could have some pointers to solutions in other urban centers as well. There will be flaws in the arguments advanced here; but I would urge the reader to think of changes which are necessary to remove the weaknesses in the proposal offered here. Perhaps we can use this to begin a journey towards finding a viable solution.
Let us start with an attempt to define the issue. It is evident that a significant inflow of people will keep coming to Mumbai and other urban centers, until we address the issue of providing livelihoods to people in the rural areas. In that case, we have to assume that cut-off dates, or any solution to restrict people coming to cities is not an option; these would be illegal and also impossible to implement. There have been various attempts to remove the problem of slums in Mumbai since 1971, but the only consistent result they have obtained is an exponential increase in the slums. The conditions in which the slum dwellers live are dehumanizing, and these become big sources of support for crimes and corruption. The Slum Rehabilitation Scheme was brought in Maharashtra by the Shiv Sena –BJP in 1997 and basically, it sought to depend on the milk of human kindness of private builders to ensure low cost houses for the poor. To implement the scheme, a body called the Slum Redevelopment Authority (SRA) was set up with very vast powers. SRA was given the powers to declare any area as a Slum, and a Slum Redevelopment Scheme could be started there with the concurrence of 70% of the slum dwellers. SRA can take over any land and has virtually been given unchecked powers to deliver this laudable social objective. Traditionally, it has been looked after by the Chief Minister. The scheme is usually initiated by a builder. He has to show the concurrence of 70% of the slum dwellers residing in a location. The concept was that all slum dwellers who were staying in Mumbai before 1995, would be given free housing of 225 square feet (equal to 21 Sq.Mtr.) and an equivalent area could be built and sold by the builder to offset the construction of the free houses to be given to slum dwellers. If the land belonged to the Government it was given free, and if it belonged to a private person, some compensation would be given to him. The private builders do not have any significant milk of human kindness and are more often driven by vile greed. Hence the scheme has failed to make any significant contribution to the problem of housing for the poor. The scheme suffered from a few fatal flaws. First it promised a free house to people based on an arbitrary date on which they were in the City, which evidently lead to a mad scramble to become eligible for the free house. These tenements are worth 20 lacs to 2 crores at present prices, depending on the area! In any urban city, property prices are basically a function of land prices and vary largely depending on the area. On the other hand, construction cost variation is not really area-linked. For low cost housing the construction cost is likely to be around 20000 rupees per sq.mtr. . Thus the equation works in a manner that the developer invests in the construction cost of two tenements-one to be given free for the slum dweller,-and the other which he is free to sell. He invests about 8.4 lacs and could sell the property which is his share for 21 lacs to 210 lacs! It is obvious that the main contributor for prices for houses is the land price. The Slum redevelopment policy does not factor the question of land prices at all. Many other policies,-the market redevelopment policy, the Caretaker Policy and so on,- are designed without any reference to the hugely different land prices. Thus they are designed for arbitrariness and corruption. These invite the greed of human beings. When property prices were much lower in the first 15 years from the policy, the scheme did not attract too many takers. As the property prices have skyrocketed in the last few years, SRA has attracted all the greedy criminals to adopt a variety of ways to exploit this. If a slum dweller who came to Mumbai say in 1996 (this year keeps getting pushed forward) can change his data to prove he was in Mumbai a year earlier, he will be entitled to a free house worth 21 to 210 lacs! And what about the Citizen who came in 2001? He is expected to live in Mumbai in a slum, and so their tribe will grow. Some people have suggested that Indians who are not ‘Mumbaikars’ must be banned from staying in Mumbai. This is against the Constitution and is neither feasible nor desirable. It is also an irony that the same people who suggest such hair-brained policies, will welcome foreigners to come to Mumbai! Such approaches cannot work. The Courts in the meanwhile pronounce loftily that shelter is a basic right for everybody. At other times, they authorize demolition of slums! Overall the Courts are not solving any problems, only complicating them. With the present SRA schemes, the builders, politicians, officials and mafia have been able to earn fantastic amounts if they can increase the number of fake slum dwellers, take over Public lands by having even one hut there, coercing slum dwellers into acquiescing in their scheme and so on. Well known celebrities too have had their names registered as slum dwellers! By introducing fake names, appropriating Public lands where there were no slums, canceling the names of the actual slum dwellers and so on, a great bonus of thousands of crores have been earned. Criminal complaints have been filed for forgery, intimidation, criminal assault, bribery, appropriation of Public lands. These cover almost all the sections of the Indian Penal Code with the Anti-Corruption Bureau, and various police stations across Mumbai. The State Government has officially taken a position that no Police investigations are taking place as required under the Criminal procedure Code since it would affect the morale of its officers! The State is openly implementing the Protection of Corruption Act.
Having looked at the present scenario, is there a solution which can address the right of people to get a house in Mumbai or such other Urban centers? I believe it is possible to achieve this and am suggesting a possible solution. Perhaps it could be the starting point for a rational search for a resolution. First let us look at the flaws in the present scheme. Any process, which seeks to confer ownership of property worth 21 lacs to 210 lacs gratis will give rise to dishonesty amongst Citizens and will be seen by those who do not get this largesse as unfair. It will create the desire to get this by any means. Since it has no rational basis for the profit of the developers, it tempts them to finding ways of illegally increasing their profits to absurd levels. This combination of greed of developers and Citizens is an ideal and fertile ground for spread of lawlessness and corruption. This in turn leads to a vested interest in this arrangement and its continuance amongst the Public servants, politicians and the mafia. We have arrived at a good recipe for designing corruption, and the attendant illegal activities. Let us first look at what I feel are the fundamental fatal flaws in the assumptions of the present Slum Rehabilitation Schemes. Firstly while we recognize the right of a Citizen to have shelter, it does not imply that this means the right to own a house for free. Secondly, as designed at present it is left to private builders to executet, with no rational basis for the formula of this supposedly ‘one for one free’ scheme. Land as we all know has varying values depending on location, whereas construction cost variables are much lower. Also, any scheme which looks at arbitrarily conferring special rights on those who came before a particular date, is refusing to look at the issue of migration from rural to urban areas being a fact of life. Another aspect is that it discriminates against many young middle class persons, who chose not to stay in a slum, and work for most part of their lives to pay for a home.
Starting from identifying these issues, I am making the following assumptions to attempt developing a solutions:
- We need to ensure shelter, not ownership of property.
- Citizens in urban areas have some capability of paying and must be made to pay
for shelter. The fact is most families in slums are presently paying over 1000 rupees each month to the slumlords for their meager water and electricity.
- In Mumbai,- and other urban centers,- poor will migrate to the cities. Hence any solution will have to think of those who come in future.
- We need to build enough shelters so that a scarcity does not prevail.
My basic assumption is that if we provide shelters for about 1 crore people in Mumbai in the next five years, there would be no scarcity. If we build 20 lac tenements of an area of 23 sq. mtrs and 1500 dormitories of 1500 sq. mtrs. with a capacity to house 500 people each, we could meet the housing requirements for the next five years. This would take care of the needs for shelter for about 1.01 crore people. Scarcity of shelter could become history. If the average tenement houses 5 people this would mean a capability of housing 100 lac people in tenements and 7.5 lac people in dormitories. Those who wish to stay in tenements could be asked to give Rs. 5000 as a refundable deposit and a lease rental of Rs. 1000 could be charged monthly, with an escalation of Rs. 100 each year for a period of 10 years. At the end of 10 years, people must be told that the lease conditions would be renegotiated. Some would hopefully move out into owned flats. It should be possible to maintain these tenements at Rs.200 per month which would leave a tidy sum which could be used to build more facilities ever year.
For dormitories people could come every evening and for 10 rupees a night, be given a covered shelter to sleep with a bed, toilets and a facility for a bath. At a cost of Rs.10 per person, it would be possible to pay for the maintenance cost of the dormitories A concept of this nature of providing shelters for the homeless exists in Countries like the US as well. Who should undertake this? The State must undertake this, and that is its job. It could get the construction done on contract basis, give the shelters to Citizens, maintain and collect the lease rents. So far, this is sounding like expressions of fond desires. Please read on with some patience. The total land area required for this would be 22.5 sq. kms.,- on an assumption of a FSI of 2.-spread over Mumbai. Presently according to most data slums are spread over a much larger area. The cost of construction,- assuming a reasonable Rs. 20000 per sq.mtr.,- will come to about 72375 crores. I am presenting this data in a tabular form below:
|Numbers||Total Builtup Area||People accommodated||Construction cost @ 20000 per sq. mtr. In crores|
(21 sq.mts. each)
|20 lacs||420 lac sq. mtrs.||100 lacs||84000|
( 1500 sq. mtrs. Each)
|1500 for 500 persons each.||22.5 lac sq. mtrs.||7.5 lacs||4500|
|Total||442.5 lac sq. mtrs.||107.5 lacs||88500 crores|
At 2 FSI 482.5 lac sq.mtrs. would require 241.25 lac sq.mts. ie. 24.125 sq.kms. By most accounts the slums are spread over 10% of the 437 sq. kms. of Mumbai. This means that presently about 43 sq. kms. are already covered by slums. Thus the land is already available and occupied by slums. The projects could implemented in about half the present area where the slumdwellers are staying. Thus they could be close to the current dwellings. The dwellings could be given to people at a rent of Rs. 1000 per month and a deposit of Rs. 5000/-, for a ten year lease, with an increase in rent of Rs. 50 each year. The dormitories could be offered for Rs. 10 per day. One argument against this proposal is that Government cannot collect lease rentals. It can then be argued that Government is incapable of collecting taxes.
The State must undertake this project and get the construction done through contractors. So called Public-Private partnerships will only lead to a one-way transaction; the Public gives and the private developers take. The questions that naturally come to mind are:
- Why will it not get hijacked by the affording class moving in?
- Where will the money come from?
There are a large number of supposed low-cost houses which are used only by the rich, by combining the tenements. To the first question i think we need to look at designing the tenements in such a manner that they are for those who are presently prepared to live in slums and are willing to forgo some aspirational needs. A private toilet is a strong aspiration for most home owners. The tenements built under such a scheme should have only common toilet blocks, be typically four storeyed-ground plus three and have no lifts. The tenements would be leased by Government, and no alterations of any kind should be permitted in the tenements. No painting or any change should be permitted and a coat of whitewash would be applied by the State every alternate year. Incidentally, the chawls in Mumbai have precisely these features, and have housed many people. I believe by refusing to allow all the aspirations of upward moving social classes, it would be possible to ensure it does not get hijacked by those who can afford to buy flats. There may also be other means of ensuring that the tenements cannot be combined. Refusal to confer ownership rights, and a strict adherence to laws,- which could even be specially framed to address the needs of such a scheme,- could make is possible to provide shelter in such abundance that nobody needs to be without shelter. Also, we need to enforce the conditions of lease very seriously, just as private owners of property do presently. We have the land, and it appears possible to provide for shelters for anyone who needs it in Mumbai. However, where will the money come from? I am suggesting one source which has been allowed to bleed Public revenue without any legal or moral justification.
Where is the money for this?
Using RTI i have obtained information from the City and Suburban Collectors that 650 acres of land in the island city and 620 acres in the suburbs have lessees whose leases have expired long back and they are being allowed to continue illegal occupation paying the original lease rents. The total lease rent being paid by nearly 700 people occupying 1270 acres of land, without any legal right to occupy these Public lands is about 6 crores. If we get the right lease rent for our lands in Mumbai, we could get an additional 2750 crores. Since Maharashtra is over 700 times the size of Mumbai this figure is likely to be over 30000 crores for the whole State.. If we get our due revenue of even 20000 crores annually, we could execute the plan for housing one crore people. In the first 5 years we would need about 88500 crores, and our revenue could be about over 20,000 crores annually by getting our rightful share of revenue. The property belongs to us, and is presently in the hands of some lessees illegally, because of connivance and negligence of the Government. A few examples of these:
|Area||Name of lessee||Sq.mtrs.||Rupees|
Sterling Investment Corporation
Wallace flour Mills
|Malabar Hill||Prithvi Cotton Mills||1132||3.53||99||1986|
Bharati Cine Enterprises
National Rayon Corporation
|Bandra||Gauri Khan & Shahrukh Khan||2446||2325||30||1981|
|Bandra||Mrs. Gracy Martha Lopez||27330||1400||30||1981|
|Juhu||Sun ‘N Sand Hotel||1036||1004.4||2||1970|
I had filed a complaint with the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra in 2005. He argued that it was difficult for them to get favourable Court orders in these matters. I pointed out to him that the Government regularly acquires lands owned by Citizens even when Citizens do not wish to part with their lands, and hence the Government’s claim that they cannot acquire their own land back was untenable. The solution lies in Citizens across the spectrum putting pressure on the political establishments of all parties to get us our rightful dues and resolve the issue of housing and slums. It can be done, and could be a fantastic opportunity for all Citizens. This matter can unite all Citizens, and give us a solution to our housing problems and after a few years,- give us a stream of additional revenue to improve our infrastructure. Similar schemes could be put in place in the other cities of Mumbai.
In December 2012 the Government has offered to sell the lands to those whose leases have expired at an effective discount of around 90%! I have filed a PIL in 2013 in the Bombay High Court against this attitude of the Government to give away people’s lands. Instead of backing my plea to recover market rents and increase its revenue legitimately due to the citizens is opposing me!
This proposal appears to be a feasible if there is political will. If Citizens and civil society organizations pursue it with consistence, it can happen. We do not aspire to be a Shanghai,- but we can certainly become a humane Mumbai.
Mera Bharat Mahaan..
Per Yeh Dosh Mera Hai.
Note: 1 sq. mtr.= 10.7 sq.ft.
1 acre= 4087 sq. mtr.
 The value of a residential property of 21 sq.mtrs. in Mumbai will be in the range of 100000 to 1000000 per sq.mtr. ie. form 2.1 million to 21 million rupees for the flat.
 At a construction cost of Rs. 20,000 per sq.mtr.the construction cost of one tenement will be Rs. 4.2 lacs, thus for two tenements the cost would be Rs.8.4 lacs.