Maharashtra can buy encroached railway land to implement SRA scheme, says Piyush Goyal

Iram Siddique, Neeraj Tiwari
Maharashtra can buy encroached railway land to implement SRA scheme, says Piyush Goyal

A delegation of slum dwellers from Khar met Railways Minister Piyush Goyal in New Delhi.

With no policy in place, the Railways Ministry has suggested that the responsibility to rehabilitate slum dwellers on its land in the city might be handed over to the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) only if the Maharashtra government purchases the encroached railway land.

While the rehabilition of slum dwellers on railway land has been deliberated upon for years, in a meeting held on Friday, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal suggested the measure to enable the rehabilitation of slum dwellers on 96.36 acres of land in the city, belonging to both Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR). A delegation of slum dwellers from Khar, along with Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale, met Goyal in New Delhi.

Athawale said Goyal told the delegates that he was ready to hand over the encroached land to the state government as the Railways has no rehabilitation policy for slum dwellers. Goyal said the land will have to be purchased by the state government to implement the SRA scheme on railway land.

“As per the Centre’s scheme of housing for all by 2022, every agency under the Union government will have to identify and declare surplus land under it to the government in order to meet the the target by 2022,” Athawala said. He added that he would soon meet Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray over the the issue. “It was Shiv Sena’s initiative to give slum dwellers flats to make Mumbai slum-free. Now is their chance,” Athawale said.

On March 21, 2017, the Railway ministry had written a letter to CR and WR to identify surplus land under each agency and also identify enchroachers on those land. The letter stated, “Surplus land of various organisations/agencies of Central government to be made available for achieving objectives of housing for all 2022.” It also stated that rehabilitation of slum dwellers on railway land was not possible in the absence of a scheme for the same.

However, on August, 24, 2017, an inter-state council meeting was held, where the matter was discussed, after which, on August 29, 2017, the Railway board had given a No Objection Certificate to SRA to carry out a biometric survey of slum dwellers on railway land.

On November 18 this year, the SRA completed the survey and found 5,964 slum dwellers on railway land in various areas in the city, including Kurla, Dharavi, Chembur and Borivali.

Housing expert and lawyer Ramesh Prabhu said, “The SRA, in the last 24 years, has managed to provide flats to only 2 lakh slum dwellers, which is only 20 per cent of its target... If SRA executes the rehabilitation work, then it will pave the way for private developers to enter railway properties, which is not good either for slum dwellers or the Railways because then projects will suffer from delays, like in many cases of SRA schemes across the city.”