The movement against the redevelopment project of Dharavi

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Residents of Mumbai’s Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, have again gone on the offensive against the Maharashtra government’s decision to award the project to a firm owned by the Adani Group. Local leaders recently held a meeting to launch an agitation against Adani. It was attended by former Shiv Sena (Thackeray group) MLA Baburao Mane, Dharavi Bachao Andolan president Ramakant Gupta, Shetkari Kamdar Paksha secretary Raju Korde, Dharavi Nagrik Seva Sangh vice president Paul Raphael and Aam Aadmi Party leader and local resident Sandeep Katke. Baburao Mane said that as part of the public awareness campaign, it was decided to hold a huge rally in front of Hotel Sahil on the 90 feet road of Dharavi in the meeting.

The project involves the demolition of hundreds of small businesses and ground-plus-two-storey structures, causing people to lose their livelihoods. The Dharavi project, said to be worth Rs 20,000 crore, involves the redevelopment of the Dharavi slum in central Mumbai, located near the BKC business district.

Even as the Maharashtra government has formally awarded the 259-hectare Dharavi redevelopment project to the Adani Group company, residents fear the project will harm poor people who depend on local businesses. Among the largest slums in Asia, Dharavi is dotted with slums, shanties and home to many small businesses. There are hundreds of ground-plus two-story structures in the area, with one room owned by the home owner and the other rented out. In most cases, a landlord’s livelihood depends on rent money, said Civil Service Union president Paul Raphael. He added that only 10-20 percent of Mumbaikars, the original Dharavi residents, remain in Dharavi awaiting the long-drawn-out redevelopment.

Aam Aadmi Party leader and advocate Sandeep Katke, who is involved in the movement, has demanded that the survey be conducted again and that everyone living here should get a house. The last survey in the area was done in 2008 and the eligibility date for the structures was January 1, 2000, while it was 2011 as per the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), he said.

Ramakant Gupta, a local BJP leader and president of Dharavi Bachao Andolan, said the government should conduct a fresh survey and the last date of the survey should be the cutoff date for eligibility. He said that everyone should get a home. No family should be sent out of Dharavi in the name of redevelopment.

A redevelopment project was mooted in 2004, but nothing has happened till date. In 1995, there were 57,000 slums in the area, but currently, we think this number has increased to 1.20 lakh. Since almost 50 percent of the people in this area run small businesses from their homes, it should be seen that their employment is not taken away.

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