With lack of clear policy for rehabilitation of slum families living around Mumbai airport coming in the way of its modernisation plans, the GVK-led Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) Tuesday approached the state government for removal of encroachment on the airport land.
MIAL representatives met Suburban Collector Sanjay Deshmukh to press for the demand. Sources said the MIAL has insisted that slums obstructing flight path be removed on priority.
However, with the state government yet to conduct a survey to identify slumdwellers eligible for rehabilitation, senior government officials said the chances of an eviction exercise in the near future were bleak. Sources said Deshmukh, while showing willingness to carry out the exercise, asked MIAL officials to obtain directives from higher-ups in the state government.
About 80,000 slum families live on 308 acres of the 1,981 acres earmarked for airport modernisation. The MIAL has been operating the airport on a 30-year lease from the Airports Authority of India. The original plan was to rehabilitate and clear the slums by 2011.
The MIAL recently terminated its contract with Housing Development and Infrastructure Limited (HDIL) alleging that it failed to meet the 2011 deadline for slum clearance and resettlement. However, HDIL has contested MIAL’s decision.
Earlier this year, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan approved an interim development plan for airport modernisation. The slum resettlement policy was, however, given a pass.
Unless the government completes a survey of the slumdwellers, they cannot be shifted to new apartments readied by HDIL in Kurla and Bhandup.
Senior government officials said there was a difference of opinion among Cabinet ministers on the survey plan.
While Chavan is believed to favour the idea of formulating a resettlement policy based on the survey, Naseem Khan, guardian minister for Mumbai Suburbs, has demanded that the policy be formulated first.
Only about 40 per cent of the slumdwellers will become eligible if the government sticks to the January 1, 2000 cut-off set for rehabilitation.