The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) slammed the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) of Maharashtra, headed by the chief minister himself, for some major lapses in the implementation of various slum rehabilitation schemes.
In its report, CAG has also pulled up the SRA for failing to recover Rs 1,120 from the Mumbai International Airport Limited.
The CAG report has vindicated the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM)’s stand which had claimed nexus between government agencies and developers at the cost of the lives and livelihoods of the poor people.
Brief Background of SRA
Slum Rehabilitation Authority [SRA] was established in December 1995, in pursuance of Section 3A of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971 to tackle the issue of the growing number of urban slum settlements in Mumbai. Though the SRA was to rehabilitate all the slum dwellers whose names appeared on the electoral role as on January 1st 1995, the extension of the aforementioned date, [to January 1st, 2000] is pending in the Supreme Court for certain vital public projects like the Dharavi Development Project, the Mithi Development Project etc. The SRA was to design slum rehabilitation schemes under the Slum Act and the Development Control Regulations [DCR] of Greater Mumbai for rehabilitating slum dwellers. Each family in the slum is to be given a self contained tenement of 269 sq ft free of cost. An incentive Floor Space Index [FSI] was provided to developers through which they could construct buildings for sale in the open market to recover the cost incurred for the rehabilitation scheme. The SRA is headed by the Chief Minister under the Slum Act who monitors the implementation of the schemes. Ministers for Housing and Urban Development, the Chief Secretary, the Mumbai Municipal Commissioner and Principal Secretaries of Housing, Urban Development and Law and Judiciary Departments and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SRA are the members of the authority.
Discrepancies in evaluation of developer
The performance and audit reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India reveals some startling facts about major lapses on the part of the SRA in some very preliminary and pre-conditional areas such as evaluation of the technical capability of developers to be entrusted with the projects was not followed. Instead of insisting on credit ratings of the developers, the SRA, blatantly flouting the norms under the housing policy introduced in 2007, has been obtaining bank guarantees from them! SRA had also not laid down norms for minimizing time overruns and though a period of three years was fixed in all agreements between the societies and developers, this was not adhered to, in a single project thereby causing more trauma to the slum dwellers who were waiting for an unsure future through an unstipulated period of time.
Non issue of photo identity cards to beneficiaries
The tenement granted to the rehabilitated slum dwellers was not to be transferred for the first 10 years from the date of allotment and for the same reason, the beneficiaries were to be given photo identity cards. Seven years after the inception of SRA, the authority outsourced the work of issuing identity cards to a private company who pulled out mid way. The transfer of the job from one private company to the other and the subsequent lack of accountability resulted in only 9,547 slum dwellers being allotted photo identity cards as against 1.27 lakh slum dwellers to whom tenements were allotted. This has made the clause of non transference of tenement by the beneficiaries for the first 10 years redundant and provides a situation that is conducive to corruption and other malpractices.
If the certified number of tenements for slum dwellers in a project being executed by a developer falls short of the stipulated 500 tenements per hectare, the shortfall was to be originally added to the project and pavement dwellers were to be accommodated. The report states that out of 20 projects of SRS wherein additional tenements has been constructed, they were not handed over to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai [MCGM] but that 318 tenements were found to be occupied by illegal tenements against who no eviction action was taken! For example, in the case of slum dwellers being relocated from Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivili to Chandivili in Powai, it was found shockingly, that of the 3,198 rehabilitation tenements of the first phase of the project, 531 tenements were locked, 329 sublet, 48 were being used for commercial purposes and 34 tenements were sold!
Lack of surveys on eligible slum dwellers
The performance audit reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India clearly points out the lack of any survey on the number of slums and their population, inspite of several complaints about the list of eligible slum dwellers. As a result of the laxity on the part of the SRA in conducting these surveys to draw baseline datas of slums on high value land, contiguous slum areas, slums on non viable areas etc, proper linking of schemes and development on township model has not been possible.
Non compliance of provisions of recreation grounds and open spaces
As per the provisions of the Development Control Regulations [DCR] for plots of over 10,000 sqm and in cases where the land use was changed from industrial to residential, open space of 25% the plot area was to be provided for recreation grounds. For plots having less than 10,000 sq m, open space of 20% of the plot area was to be provided. These provisions were made to prevent overcrowding, high density and unhygienic conditions in the tenements. In most cases unexplainable and unexplained relaxations were granted to the developers thereby violating the guidelines set for rehabilitation tenement for the SRA.
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India specifically names Mumbai International Airport Limited [MIAL] as having incurred undue benefits after being awarded the work of slum rehabilitation on airport land for the Housing Development and Infrastructure Development [HDIL]. The report also notes that a conservative estimate of Rs 4 lakh per tenement amounting to a total of Rs 1120 crore was recoverable from MIAL, which was also not done! A minimum additional infrastructural charge of Rs 84 crore was recoverable in addition to the normal infrastructural charge which was also not done by SRA!
Initially , a rehabilitation scheme to rehabilitate slum dwellers on 18 acres of MHADA land in Golibar, Santa Cruz was sanctioned in 2006 and 2007 to be executed by Shivalik Ventures, Mumbai. While the project was ongoing, Shivalik Ventures submitted a proposal for integrated redevelopment [Special Township Plan] of 125 acres for rehabilitating 26,000 families which was approved by the Chief Minister in 2008 by issuing orders under clause 3 [K] of the Slum Act. The CAG report however, reveals that the claim of Shivalik Ventures to have acquired 22 of the 52 acres land by consent was not verified by the government / SRA before issuing an order! Moreover, there was absolutely no process of transparent bidding before selecting Shivalik Ventures as the developer.
It is clearly stated in the housing policy of 2007 that the selection process should be based on a free and transparent bidding process. 43 acres of land belonging to the Defence Ministry and 2 acres of land owned by the Central Excise Department was included in this project, for which no objection certificates that had to be obtained from the respective bodies was also not got! The Special Township plan effectively helped the developer to take up a large township scheme with basically no opposition through a non transparent process where Shivalik Ventures had the sole monopoly. What is really shocking is that, Shivalik Ventures, which operated as a partnership firm when it proposed the STP in 2008, was later converted to a limited company in which Unitech Limited , held a substantial 50% in the company share!
NAPM welcomes the honest and critical report brought out by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India which exposes the nexus between government agencies and developers at the cost of the lives and livelihoods of the poorer sections of the population who not only do not receive the benefits of rehabilitation, but are also forcefully removed from their places of residence. The 9 day hunger fast that was undertaken in 2011 by Medha Patkar, Zuber Bhai, Shantabhai and another 1200 people who went on relay hunger fast , to bring out the corruption and oppression of the builder- government nexus stands vindicated with this CAG report.
The hunger fast was held specifically to bring out issues of forged signatures of slum dwellers by the developer, to show that consent was got for the project in Golibar and to demand a larger enquiry into all slum development projects in Mumbai. The struggle is however, a long one and we need to keep a vigilant eye on the powerful forces that are joining hands to incur undue and illegal benefits at the cost of the taxpayers of this country and the urban poor.
Following are the demands of NAPM from government:
- Review the working of the SRA and take stringent action against the offenders found to be involved in corruption and other malpractices.
- Revive the two fact finding committees set up during the last year’s fast.
- Implement Rajiv Awas Yojna immediately and effectively to provide proper housing to the urban poor.