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7 lakh ‘ineligible’ residents, tight deadline: Potential bidders voice doubts about Dharavi revamp

With Shinde govt initiating revamp effort, potential bidders expressed concerns at meeting earlier this month. Redevelopment authority says project requires ‘out of the box thinking’.

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Mumbai: The Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government’s push for the much-delayed Dharavi redevelopment project has attracted initial interest from real estate developers, but they have raised some strong concerns regarding the implementation of the project.

As per the minutes of a pre-bid meeting held on 11 October, which ThePrint has seen, potential bidders have raised doubts about being able to complete the rehabilitation for such a complex project within a seven-year span as mandated by the government.

They have also raised issues such as dealing with the sheer numbers of slum dwellers who could be ineligible for free rehabilitation under the project.

The companies voiced these concerns in a pre-bid meeting that the Dharavi Redevelopment Project Authority (DRA) held after floating a fresh tender for the revamp of Asia’s largest slum sprawl on 1 October.

Eight companies, including one from South Korea and another from the United Arab Emirates, attended the pre-bid meeting for the project.

“It is an extremely complex project and requires out of the box thinking. Solutions have to be multi-pronged, not just housing but livelihood and transit accommodation. We tried to do the project keeping the complexity in mind. The bidders had a few queries. Even once the bid is finalised, the road ahead would be challenging,” DRA chief executive officer S. V. R. Srinivas told ThePrint,

The Dharavi redevelopment project was first conceived nearly two decades ago.

With Dharavi being a complex area comprising long stretches of multi-storey slums, standalone buildings, commercial establishments, industries and tanneries, the project has so far been a non-starter despite previous governments having made a few attempts to tender it out.

The last attempt to get the project off the ground was in 2018. Dubai-based Seclink Technology Corporation had emerged as the preferred bidder in January 2019.

The tender was, however, scrapped in October 2020 saying a 45-acre railway land parcel, which later became a part of the project, was not considered in the tender process.

Also Read: Shinde govt revives delayed Dharavi revamp, but fed-up residents want to rebuild own societies

Accommodating ‘ineligible’ residents

As per the state government data, Dharavi is spread across 259 hectares of which 173.9 hectares will be part of the redevelopment project. Of this, 147.4 hectares is estimated to be occupied by slums.

In 2007-08, a Pune-based non-government organisation, Maharashtra Social Housing and Action League (MASHAL), had conducted a survey of Dharavi residents and concluded that there were 49,643 slum dwellers, both residential and commercial, and 9,522 tenements in chawls.

As per the survey, there were another 4,818 slum dwellers on the railway land in Dharavi. The numbers are unlikely to be very different now as the survey was done keeping a cut off of 1 January 2000, to identify residents eligible for free rehabilitation. The 2000 cut-off still stands for the project.

According to the bid documents drawn by DRA, there are about seven lakh slum dwellers living on mezzanine flowers and upper floors of slum structures who will be ineligible for free in-situ rehabilitation.

These people, the DRA has said, will have to be accommodated in housing schemes under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or rental housing schemes within a 10 km radius.

Many of the companies who attended the pre-bid meeting had questions about how this might exactly pan out. “This number appears abnormally high (approximately 7 lakh), that is ten times of eligible ones as per the Mashal survey,” a bidder was quoted as saying in the minutes.

The DRA has clarified that it is just an estimate and the bidder can conduct its own survey to determine the final number.

Another query raised was whether the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), the entity heading this project of which the winning bidder will be the lead partner, will be responsible for paying rent compensation to seven lakh indelible slum dwellers and for how long.

The DRA has said that it would try to provide transit accommodation and get salt pan land from the Centre to house these ineligible residents, but it does not take the liability.

As per the tender’s conditions, the responsibility of finding a land parcel to provide alternative accommodation to the ineligible slum residents also lies with the SPV implementing the project.

Potential bidders were worried that they may not find something within a 10 km radius. As per the DRA response, bidders may explore land parcels anywhere in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region but they should protect the livelihoods of the residents.

“In the previous attempts at bidding out the project, except for the last attempt in 2018, there was no mention of what is to be done with ineligible residents. Here, we have given the way forward, and option of ownership of the alternative accommodation under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. We have given a timeline and an action plan to protect not just their houses, but also their livelihoods,” Srinivas said.

Also Read: Plots in Mumbai’s BKC to fetch MMRDA over Rs 2,000 crore after state clears GST hurdle

‘Project too complex to be completed in 7 years’

As per the bid documents, the SPV will have to complete the redevelopment of slums and non-slum structures along with all the on-site and off-site infrastructure such as water supply, sewage disposal, electricity, and piped gas within a period of seven years.

According to the minutes, one of the companies present at the pre-bid meeting said, “Considering the size, complexity and constraints in availability of open land, the completion period for rehabilitation, renewal, amenities and infrastructure component should be 10 or 12 years for each phase of redevelopment.”

The tender documents also say that the Dharavi project will be deemed to be completed at the end of the 17th year from the lease execution date, i.e., the SPV must be completely withdrawn by then.

Companies who have evinced interest have expressed concerns over how the project would be possible within the timeframe and it should be subject to master planning, site availability and so on.

On its part, the DRA has clarified that necessary extensions may be considered in case of conditions beyond the control of the SPV.

(Edited by Theres Sudeep)

Also Read: Maharashtra revives ‘much-delayed’ Dharavi revamp project, starts process for calling tenders


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