Redevelopment of Dharavi – Need of the Hour Post-COVID-19

Advocate Aditya Pratap practices in the Bombay High Court. Questions may be emailed to him at aditya@adityapratap.com

Dharavi – A COVID-19 Hotspot:

Dharavi in Mumbai is Asia’s largest slum, spanning 2.40 square kilometres and home to over 700,000 people. With a population density of 277,136 persons per square kilometre, it ranks among the most densely populated areas on the planet. As a consequence of heavy overcrowding coupled with poor sanitation, Dharavi has mushroomed into a COVID-19 hotspot with the highest number of coronavirus infections being recorded there.

The blame for Dharavi’s suffering must rest squarely upon political apathy and bureaucratic inefficiency. Redeveloped of this slum area, which is reeling under a public health crisis, has been stalled for close to two decades. A variety of factors are to blame, ranging from political flip-flops, bureaucratic tangles and last but not the least political hoodlums, who exhort local residents to make unreasonable demands which, if unmet, become a tool for stalling the redevelopment process.

Redevelopment of Dharavi – A Non-Starter for Nearly Two Decades and Fertile Ground for Political Wrangling:

The Dharavi Redevelopment Plan has been widely panned by critics as grossly delayed. It was first conceived in 2003 by the Congress-NCP Government and notified as the “Dharavi Redevelopment Project” on 9th March 2005. However, it would take another seven years before the Special Regulations for Dharavi Notified Area were drafted and enacted as Regulations 33(9A and 10A) in 2012. Despite this lengthy delay, there was no further progress and subsequently, the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP-Shiv Sena Government came to power in 2014.

If proponents of Dharavi’s redevelopment expected prompt action after the regime change, their hopes were soon to be belied. Having sat on the file for nearly four years, the BJP-led Government published the tender only on 28th November 2018 inviting bids from companies eager to participate in the project. It was announced that eight companies would be selected to form a consortium which would develop Dharavi in multiple packages to be constructed parallelly.

However, the global tender elicited a scant response. Only two companies, Seclink from Dubai and the Adani Group submitted bids. While the bid of Seclink was accepted, the entire tender process was subsequently scrapped after the Government decided to radically alter tender conditions. As of today, keeping the bureaucrat tangles aside, the commencement of construction for Dharavi redevelopment is nowhere in sight.

Dharavi’s acute overcrowding and insanitary conditions have made it a COVID-19 hotspot

Regulations governing Dharavi’s Redevelopment – A Brief Analysis:

DC Regulation 33(9)(A) contains elaborate stipulations governing the redevelopment of the Dharavi Notified Area (DNA). It provides an overall FSI (Floor Space Index) of 4.00 for the DNA. However, the FSI entitlement may vary from plot to plot within the DNA, subject to planning considerations.

Given Dharavi’s congestion, an FSI of 4.00 post-redevelopment runs the risk of aggravating congestion. Therefore, systematic planning is imperative to avoid any adverse consequences of such high FSI loads. Division of Dharavi into sectors served by wide roads and public transport infrastructure would serve to alleviate the problem.

Division of Dharavi Notified Area into Self-Contained Sectors:

Redevelopment without layout and town planning serves no purpose. Therefore Regulation 33(10) provides for the division of the DNA into ‘planning sectors’. Each planning sector comprises a sub-divided portion of land which is bounded by proposed or existing major roads or railway lines. It must be self-contained and must provide various amenities to the residents within nearby limits.

The Dharavi Redevelopment Plan along with the special regulations envisages sector-based development of Dharavi. New roads will be carved out and sectors shall be sub-divided into plots. This will enable better circulation of the congested area and enhance the amenities available to the residents. Further, each sector is purported to have a self-contained area having its own schools, offices, shopping complexes, parks and other urban amenities.

A proposed sectoral plan for Dharavi – Image Credits: Systematica.Net

Eligibility Criteria for Hutment Dwellers to Participate in Dharavi Redevelopment:

Those hutment dwellers whose names and tenements figure in the electoral rolls of Dharavi prepared on or before 1st January, 2000 are eligible to participate in Dharavi Redevelopment process. They will be provided with new rehabilitation tenements, free of cost, in lieu of the older hutments which will be demolished. Necessary census activities will be conducted in accordance with the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971 to ascertain the identities of slum occupants and determine their eligibility.

Joint Ownership of Reconstructed Tenement with Spouse:

In order to ensure equitable rights between husband and wife, the Special Regulations for DNA provide that each reconstructed slum tenement shall be under the joint ownership of the hutment dweller and spouse. The registered deed of conveyance for each tenement shall be jointly executed with the two spouses. Further, their names must be jointly entered in the Share Certificate of the housing society which would be formed once the new rehabilitation buildings are constructed.

Carpet Areas of the Reconstructed Tenements:

In lieu of hutment demolition, rehabilitation flats will be provided free of cost to eligible slum-dwellers. They are proposed to be allotted in various sizes. Keeping in line with Mumbai’s slum redevelopment policy, the size of rehab tenements is fixed at 300 square feet (27.88 square meters) for hutments of similar size or less. For hutments larger than 300 square feet in area, rehabilitation tenements of 400 square feet will be provided.

In cases where the larger rehab tenements of 400 square feet are provided, only 300 square feet will be provided free-of-cost. The remaining 100 square feet will be chargeable on the basis of construction cost, to be determined by the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) appointed by the SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority).

Quality of Life – Amenities in the Rehab Flats for Slumdwellers:

The Special Regulations for Dharavi seek to provide the existing slum residents with decent living standards. Each rehab flat will have its own toilet/bathroom attached. Therefore, residents will not have to queue up outside public latrines, which have been responsible for the spike in COVID-19 infections there.

With a view to preventing the uprooting of livelihoods, the Special Regulations for Dharavi require in situ rehabilitation of slum dwellers. This means that the new rehabilitation flats must be provided at near about the same location vis-à-vis the earlier hutments. This will ease the rehabilitation process and prevent displacement.

Typical newly-constructed slum rehabilitation buildings in Mumbai (Photo by Aditya Pratap)

Protection of Property Rights – Execution of Individual Agreements with Each Slumdweller:

Every private developer participating in the Dharavi redevelopment will have to execute an individual agreement with each eligible hutment dweller. Each individual agreement is effectively a sale deed which would confer binding ownership rights upon the hutment dwellers once they receive their new flats. The individual agreement shall be duly stamped and registered, making it admissible in evidence during legal proceedings.

Once the individual agreement for each rehab flat is executed, it will be considered as an “Agreement for Sale” within the meaning of Section 2(c) of the Real Estate Regulation Act, 2016 (or RERA Act). Each individual agreement must disclose the date of possession along with the amenities to be provided. Therefore, if the developer fails to handover the finished flat on or before the stipulated date of possession, the allottee (or erstwhile hutment dweller) can move the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) to seek justice.

What We Conclude – The Way Forward:

The spread of COVID-19 like wildfire through the narrow alleyways of Dharavi has delivered a public jolt to policymakers. It would be reasonable to expect the new Uddhav Thackeray-led government to fast-track the redevelopment process. In a letter written to the Chief Minister, Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad has called upon the former to seize the opportunity offered by the pandemic and expedite redevelopment. Ironically Mr. Jitendra Awhad was himself diagnosed with COVID-19 and made a recent recovery from the disease.

Redevelopment of Mumbai slums must attain the highest priority once the pandemic subsides. Along with Dharavi, the suburbs of Mumbai are home to other mammoth slum clusters in Mankhurd, Kandivali and Bhandup spanning several square kilometres in area. These slum sprawls add to urban squalor, presenting an eyesore to any foreign tourist or dignitary who lands at Mumbai airport. Their very existence is a gross affront to the people’s right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Only prompt redevelopment of Mumbai slums would end this injustice and achieve India’s noble goals of ‘Housing for All’ by 2022.

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Advocate Aditya Pratap
About Advocate Aditya Pratap 64 Articles
Aditya Pratap is a lawyer practising in Mumbai. He argues cases in the Bombay High Court, Sessions and Magistrate Courts, along with appearances before RERA, NCLT and the Family Court. For further information one may visit his website adityapratap.in or view his YouTube Channel to see his interviews. Questions can be emailed to him at aditya@adityapratap.com.