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Think of people when you develop: activists

Express News Service
A week after the state government decided to set up a committee for ‘Slumless Mumbai’, activists have called for the need to keep inclusive development at the heart of any new policy.

On Monday, at a panel discussion held by the housing rights group Ghar Banao Ghar Bhacao Andolan, several social activists highlighted the absolute lack of people-centric development in a majority of policies of the state government. The activists who were part of the panel include Urban Studies professor at Tata Institute of Social Studies Amita Bhide, architect and urban researcher Neera Adakar, transport expert Sudhir Badami and leader of National Alliance of People’s Movement Medha Patkar.

“The problem with committees like the one that has been formed for transforming Mumbai into a ‘slumless’ city as well as existing schemes like SRA, is that it is focused on increasing the Floor Space Index. No thought is given to the fact that resettling slumdwellers in tiny flats in highrises means adding more density and straining the infrastructure,” said Adarkar. She gave the example of the Dharavi Redevelopment Scheme where slumdwellers were first promised bigger homes and then the FSI was increased in a way that the developers too get to construct more flats for selling in the open market.

Questioning the direction in which development in Mumbai is headed, Amita Bhide added that only 18,000 families hold yellow ration cards (meant for those Below Poverty Line) in a city where 60% of the 13 million population live in slums. “Such development which neglects the poor will lead serious consequences in the long run,” said Bhide.

NAPM leader Medha Patkar too lashed out at the state government’s pro-developer policies that ignored the needs of the urban poor. Taking a dig at MNS leader Raj Thackeray’s sons of the soil tirade, Patkar said that most of the migrants who have come to Mumbai post the year 2000 are those from the neglected parts of Maharashtra and not those from the northern states of the country.