Change in nomenclature leaves the gaothans open for exploitation by real estate developers, say activists.
Despite several assurances from the state government to earmark gaothans in the Development Plan (2034) and demarcate them accordingly, the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) has proposed to bring Kirol Gaothan in Vidyavihar (West) under its ambit by declaring it a slum.
On October 24, the SRA, in a letter to Sheela Vedpathak and 65 other landowners in Kirol, informed them of this decision.
The change in nomenclature leaves the gaothans, otherwise protected as heritage sites, open for exploitation by real estate developers. Slamming the move, activist advocate Godfrey Pimenta said, “By no stretch of the imagination, the definition of a slum area can be applied to houses in a gaothan. This type of labelling and calling the original landowners as land grabbers equates us with slumlords.”
Mirror is in possession of documents wherein the SRA wants to declare Kirol Gaothan a slum.
“The builder-SRA-politicians nexus is behind this. We will lose our identity as the oldest inhabitants of Mumbai and fear losing our ancestral land which we have acquired through hard earned money. I have a 1,000 sqft cottage with three balconies and five toilets. Under the SRA scheme, I will get a measly 300 sqft room,” lamented Lenster Rodriques, a resident of Kirol.
Greg Pereira, convenor, Save Gaothan committee told Mirror, “Some houses in Kirol are being lost to road widening while some are being demolished under the SRA resettlement scheme. In the absence of a dedicated gaothan policy, the BMC has no option but to consider it aslum. A gross misconduct.”
Gaothan residents say that even though the Draft Development Plan 2014-2034 published in 2015 and the revised Draft Development Plan 2014-2034 published in 2016 has a provision for marking of village boundary (Gaothans Koliwadas and Adivasi Padas), the same has not been marked “intentionally” so that developers can take undue advantage to bring certain areas from Gaothans, Koliwadas and Adivasi Padas under SRA schemes.
This has happened in case of gaothans at Vile Parle (East), Kondivita in Andheri (East), Tape Village in Andheri (West), Kirol and Khalai in Kurla (West).
Out of the 189 gaothans, only 52 have been marked in the development plan. Important heritage precincts like Khotachiwadi Matharpakadi, Juhu, Chuim Gaothan and many others have been left out from DP 2034.
Paul Creado from Juhu Gaothan said the current DP has not marked their gaothan either.
“It is a prime location and is being constantly eyed by the builder lobby. On the one hand, the government says gaothans are heritage precincts while on the other hand they are declaring it a slum cluster,” said Creado.
On November 1, Neil Pereira from Pali Gaothan and Alphi D’Souza, maha sarpanch and founder trustee of Mobai Gaothan Panchayat along with BJP MLA Ashish Shelar had met Fadnaivs and discussed the urgency to incorporate gaothans in the new DP which was subsequently accepted in the cabinet meeting.
“We met suburban collector Sachin Kurve who has assured us that the process of gaothan demarcation has already started. As of now, seven Koliwadas have been demarcated after which Gaothans will be demarcated,” said Pereira.
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