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MVA Under Fire From All Corners For Announcing Homes For Legislators in Mumbai

Amey Tirodkar |
The Chief Minister recently announced flats in Mumbai city for 300 legislators of Maharashtra. This has irked activists as well as ordinary citizens in Maharashtra.
MVA Under Fire From All Corners For Announcing Homes For Legislators in Mumbai

Image Courtesy: Twitter/Office of Uddhav Thackeray

Mumbai: During the reply to the city’s housing issue discussion in the Maharashtra Assembly on Thursday, March 24, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray made an announcement for 300 legislators (MLAs and MLCs). He said, "We are doing this (number of schemes he had read for common people) and more for people. Then what about their representatives? They, too, need to be taken care of. So, all the legislators will get permanent houses in Mumbai."

This announcement has invited criticism across the state, calling it a bonanza for legislators while hundreds of urgent attention issues still hang in uncertainty.

Though this announcement came separately, it was on the backdrop of a hike in legislator development fund (from 4 crore in last financial year to 5 crore from this financial year) announced by MVA finance minister Ajit Pawar in this budget. Legislators will also get Rs 15,000 as salary for drivers and Rs 25,000 as salary for PA. Against this backdrop, when CM Thackeray announced houses in Mumbai, people questioned the to-be privileges.

Everyone dreams of having a house in Mumbai city. The prices of homes in Mumbai are higher than in any other city in India. The lowest ready reckoner rate for Mumbai is Rs 68,000 per square meter in Goregaon west (1 square meter is 10 square feet, that is, Rs 6,800 per square feet). The market price is much above ready reckoner, almost double in the area—the proposed project for legislators coming in the same area, Goregaon west of the western suburbs.

The announcement for legislator houses is not as free houses. The Mumbai Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) works for affordable housing projects. Housing minister Jitendra Awhad clarified that the legislators would be charged for houses. One flat in the higher-income group (varies sq feet from 950 to 1,100) will cost 68 lakhs to 84 lakhs. It is almost 40% cheaper than the market value.

Awhad, in his tweet, said, "There is confusion and criticism over the announcement. Let me clarify that legislators will be charged for construction and land (approx 70 lakh per flat) in the said scheme."

However, the issue is not about charges. It is about the priorities of the State government. Be it slum rehabilitation or redevelopment of chawls, Mumbai's pending projects of housing runs into thousands. The pendency has many reasons, including local politics, project pricing, etc. People living on rent here as their original houses have gone for redevelopment are ready to pay for the new houses. MHADA comes with a housing lottery every year with some 8 to 10 thousand flats. Legislators will get houses in Goregaon west where MHADA's numbers or projects are going on. By giving priority to 300 legislators in these houses, the State government is ignoring the rights of 300 common citizens.

"Don't MLAs and MLCs have houses in Mumbai or suburban areas? Many of them do have. The government has also given them flats of accommodation in Mumbai on a term basis. If they have work in Mumbai's offices, they can come and stay in these MLA quarters. Many legislators do it regularly. What is the need to prioritise legislators if literally lakhs of other genuine cases are pending into rehabilitation and redevelopment?" asked Medha Patkar, a veteran social activist and leader of Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao forum.

Vishwas Utagi, convenor of Niwara Abhiyan, Mumbai's civil society group fighting for affordable houses on government land, slams the MVA government over the move. "Many, if not all, legislators have houses in Mumbai's various real estate projects. Why give them government-built flats at affordable prices? Instead, the government should have given it to mill workers, who have been waiting for the homes since 2009," he said.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's lone MLA Raju Patil has also slammed the State government. He said that instead of these flats, the government should give farmers free of cost power supply. "There is no need to give flats. If any MLA wants, he can buy in the open market. We all have other facilities and even quarters in Mumbai during our term. We don't need it. Government should spend money on education, road and power supply to farmers instead of MLAs," he said in protest.

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