Housing trust members threaten to go on hunger strike

MUMBAI: “We do not want charity. We will construct our own houses”. Repeating this refrain, crusaders of middle income housing are pushing their demand of implementing the government rule (GR) of 1983 that promises allotment of plots for construction of affordable group housing. According to the GR, the state enables housing societies to construct homes as per their requirements and spending capacity by providing them land at low rates. Members of the Brihan mumbai Nivara Abhiyan (BNA) have threatened to go on a hunger strike from Wednesday at Azad Maidan if this rule is not implemented at the earliest.

According to activists of the cause, over 3,900 applications of housing societies, each having 25-30 members, are pending to avail of the scheme for the past eighteen months. “Successive governments in Maharashtra have failed to implement the GR that was issued in 1999. After these housing societies were formed two years ago to avail of the scheme, we wrote to then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and there were regular follow-ups. But there was no response,” said Vinayak Joshi, trustee of BNA.

The agitation that started in 1981 by Nagari Nivara Parishad (NNP) ended in 1992 when possession of 62 acres of land in Dindoshi, Goregaon (East) was given to it. NNP had resorted to a week-long Gandhian hunger strike in 1987 and then president of India, Gyani Zail Singh intervened and accepted the demand of NNP. After a wait of five years, NNP got possession of the land and constructed 6,152 buildings subsequently.

Now, people say that the same should be extended to the applications that are pending. Each member of the housing society has even deposited Rs 10,000 in the bank so that the sum can be used to construct homes when they get the go-ahead. According to them, the financial meltdown that has led to the real estate slump has failed to bring cheer to those seeking affordable housing. “Due to limited supply of small flats and holding capacity of the builders, middle and low income house buyers continue to find the prevailing prices beyond their reach,” alleged Joshi.

This, coupled with the repeal of the Urban Land Ceiling Act (ULCA) adds to the problem. “While repealing the act, the state had claimed that there would be an increase in affordable housing by unlocking Mumbai’s urban land bank. But this is not true,” said Mrinal Gore, former MLA and trustee of BNA. “Those who can afford to pay an honest price for a flat and pay all taxes are being shunted out of the city,” she added.