The New Year brings good news for over 11,000 illegal residents in Mhada transit camps in the city. The Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority has decided in principle to legitimise their occupation of houses in these camps by charging a certain amount as premium, senior Mhada officials said.
This decision has been conveyed to the state government which will have to discuss the issue and decide on the details, including the amount to be charged.
Mhada has about 18,000 tenements in over 50 transit camps across the city and suburbs. The housing authority had in a survey found that some 11,000 of these houses were occupied illegally.
“Most of them have occupied these houses by paying kickbacks to Mhada officials, forging documents, or by force,” an official said, on condition of anonymity.
“Mhada had decided to evict them with the help of the police. But this did not work out due to political pressure. Besides, some people claimed to have genuine documents, but their records were missing at Mhada offices. So, we decided to take a humane stand on the issue,” the official said.
Another official explained that this was discussed at several meetings after the government directed that a softer stand be taken on the issue. “These occupants are illegal, but they have been residing in these houses for several years. So they cannot be thrown out in a day, by simply using the law book,” the official said.
But there are voices of dissent over this decision. A Mhada official argued that if the government legalised unauthorised occupants it would set a wrong precedent. “Many will start staying illegally and the demand to legalise such occupants will rise,” the official said.
Some of Mhada’s largest transit camp areas are at Pratiksha Nagar in Sion, Mankhurd-Mandale and Dindoshi. They provide accommodation primarily for families displaced by various projects like road widening, bridge construction and so on. “So it is the government’s duty to help them by providing houses,” said Prasad Lad, chairman of the Mumbai Buildings Repair and Reconstruction Board, a Mhada organisation.
Lad said that the Mhada decision has been conveyed to CM Prithviraj Chavan recently. “I hope the government takes up this issue and will table it before the state assembly for discussion. I have also requested all MLAs and MPs elected from Mumbai to support the issue,” he said.