Dharavi spread over 2.4 sq km, is home for some 60,000 families and 8.5 lakh people. It has so far reported 1,353 cases and 56 deaths
MUMBAI| Dharavi South Asia’s biggest slum and COVID-19 hotspot in Mumbai is again in news for its redevelopment plan.
Maharashtra State Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad has written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asking him to give the green flag to redevelop the slum urgently. Following the demand, Varsha Gaikwad Dharavi MLA too is pushing for the redevelopment. Dharavi reports rise in cases by 100 daily which is increasing the concern of COVID-19 in Mumbai.
Dharavi spread over 2.4 sq km, is home for some 60,000 families and 8.5 lakh people. It has so far reported 1,353 cases and 56 deaths.
In his letter, Awhad wrote, “Dharavi is fast becoming the Covid-19 capital of Mumbai. A major factor for the spread of the infection in the area has been the high density of population and the lack of quality healthcare services. This has created a negative perception about Dharavi. On the other hand, you won’t get a more appropriate opportunity to push Dharavi’s redevelopment, which will lead to its overall social and economic upliftment.”
Dharavi’s redevelopment has been on every political party’s agenda since 2004, but it has failed to take off so far. It sites the prime land in the heart of Mumbai.
In 2018, the Devendra Fadnavis led BJP government in the state, too, had approved a new model for the slum’s redevelopment. In the global bidding process that followed, Dubai-based infrastructure firm, SECLINK Technologies Corporation (STC), had emerged as the top bidder, having committed to an upfront capital investment of Rs 7,100 crore for the Rs 26,000-crore revamp plan.
On March 2019, The Dharavi Redevelopment Project Authority, a state-run SPV, had even issued a Letter of Intimation (LOI) recognising STC as the topmost bidder and declared the government’s intention of awarding the contract to the firm. But there has been little progress since them, with the government seeking legal opinion on whether the tendering process for the revamp itself had been vitiated due to a subsequent development where the Railways had handed over a 45-acre plot for the development work. The only other bidder in the tender was the Adani Group.
Jitendra Awhad said, “All permissions are in place. The plan has been approved. Given the circumstances, if a decision to promote Dharavi’s redevelopment is taken or even if an announcement is made, it will also be politically beneficial to the coalition.”
Awhad added, “We can seek another legal opinion if required. The project should not be delayed further.” Also will generate more jobs
Varsha Gaikwad, pushing for the same project said, “The pandemic has taught us a lot of things. It has underlined the importance of social distancing, space and personal hygiene. Dharavi’s vertical development will lead to better crowd management, bigger roads and better healthcare facilities. It is the need of the hour.” Nilang Shah of STC said, “We would be happy to be a part of Dharavi’s transformation. The redevelopment has the potential to boost Mumbai’s real estate market too.”