Friday, August 31, 2007

Quick vital stats on Dharavi

Some vital stats on the Dharavi Redevelopment Project. (source)
Area: 535acres; to be developed into five sectors

Ownership: 69% owned by BMC, 10% by state and central governments and balance 21% is private land

Families affected: 50-60,000; each will get one 225sqft tenement as rehabilitation

Industrial units: 4,500. Each will the same 225sqft tenement.

Companies bidding: 26 consortia, i.e. combinations of global players and domestic ones. For eg. Reliance Land + Hines Real Estate, HDIL + Lehman, Runwal Group + Capitaland, etc.

Bid document: Handed out to 101 companies at Rs1lakh/document.

Scrutiny of bids: Under progress, to be completed by Sept-end

Short-listed candidates: To be announced after scrutiny is over. Five developers (consortia as above) who will develop one sector each.

Bid submission: Technical and finance bids by above short-listed candidates to be submitted by October 15, 2007

Bid finalisation: By December 15, 2007

Size of project: Rs9,250crores, or US$2.3billion.

Now, consider this: Dharavi is an entire economy on its own. To replace that with proper real-estate development is not going to be easy. Its one thing to provide free housing to a slum-dweller, but another to replace his daily wage, assuming that's even possible. Unless, politicians and builders get together and with their combined strength move this forward.

Wonder why there are no protests here from any political party over issues like consent of the residents, land acquisition, substitution of income, environmental and infrastructure impact, etc.. No agitations, no protests. Nothing.

Back up. Did you say "Politicians and builders get together"?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mumbai Voter Id Card - Update

When I last posted on how to get your Election Photo ID Card (EPIC), or voters card, I received many queries pertaining to the schedules for the issue of the EPICs across various areas. Unfortunately the Chief Electoral Officer's website has stopped posting these schedules online.

However, I know for a fact that this exercise is underway in Mumbai because (a) I've seen ads in Worli notifying the dates when these cards will be issued and (b) I've also seen vans with election officials roaming in streets in Santacruz, armed with loudspeakers, urging citizens to apply for the EPIC.

I'm now sure when (if at all) the CEO plans to upload the schedule on their website. Till then, for those who want to get their voter ID cards, I can point you to two links as below.

1. For those in Mumbai City (i.e. from Colaba to Mahim): please visit the Mumbai City Collector's website (click here)

2. For those in Mumbai Suburbs (i.e. from Bandra to Dahisar): please visit the Mumbai Suburban Collector's website (click here)

Both the links provide you with the phone numbers of the Collector's Office. Once you have these numbers, do the following -

1. Call at the numbers and simply ask "how do I get my voter ID card?". You will be asked where you stay and then given the phone number of the relevant office in your area.

2. Call that number and ask for the details. For e.g. "What is the schedule for issue of voter ID cards in my area", "Where do I go to my voter ID card", etc. etc.

I hope this works for you.

Request to other bloggers/aggregators - if any of you kind people think this message (relevant only for Mumbaikars) is worthy of spreading, please link or copy paste, etc. Thanks.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Moving to new domain

This blog will now be hosted under my own domain name. Here is the new address. You don't have to do anything, but in case you have any problems in accessing this blog or feed, please leave a comment. Thanks.

Also, apologies for the nth time in not posting. As always, I will be back.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mid-year round-up Mumbai, part 2

Part 1 of my round-up is here. This is the second, and concluding, part. Comments, as always, welcome.

*****

Real estate – going for broke

So, did your dream house get cheaper? Don’t be surprised if it didn’t. And heck, at least it didn’t get any more expensive. Brokers and builders – at least those in suburbs – are now a lot less arrogant than last year. They’re willing to talk, perhaps even negotiate if you’re a “genuine buyer”. Why? courtesy the interest rate hikes earlier this year, which pretty much took the steam off property prices in Mumbai.

But don’t rejoice. “Affordable housing” remains as believable as traffic-free roads in Mumbai. Builders remain firmly in control. And the Government remains firmly indecisive.

The much-hyped, toothless, housing policy was finally tabled in the Monsoon Session of the State Assembly and almost all experts believe it’s impossible to implement. Low-income group houses next to high-income group ones? No way. And what kind of builder would take up such a project? Ironically, the Government wants to encourage a public-private partnership with this policy. Don’t expect to hear too much on this front as we settle into the second half.

Do, of course, expect to hear more on the slum rehabilitation project at Dharavi. This is a project where politicians have made huge amounts of money – illegally. You couldn’t find a better example of the politician-criminal-builder nexus. RTI activist, Shailesh Gandhi, who filed a Public Interest Litigation on this matter, recently sent a mail detailing everything that’s happened – or not – so far. Read here for more details. Meanwhile, almost all of the large, organised, and now listed, developers like DLF, Unitech, HDIL, etc. are all bidding for a piece of what will be a vastly lucrative pie. For everyone.

Funny how the Government is moving with focus on Dharavi, while soft-pedalling on key regulatory issues like the housing policy.

Or like repealing the Urban Land Ceiling Act. We’re no closer than we were last year.

Why is repealing the Act so important? Simply because the city needs infrastructure funds from the Central Government, which makes these funds available to cities under their Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). But, cities have to fulfil certain conditions. Like repealing ULCA. And Maharashtra is among the last few states where the law still exists. Even after agreeing to repeal this law – which incidentally was followed in exceptions rather than the rule – the Government isn’t any closer to actually repealing it. It didn’t make it through the winter legislature session last year, and it’s not made it through the monsoon session this year.

So, what do we look forward to in the second half of this year? Property rates aren’t expected to fall, but not many expect a meteoric rise either. Don’t expect anything from the Government to increase supply. The Mill Land sales remain stuck over one issue or another. The housing policy could remain just another ineffectual document. While last year, the CM indicated that the Government might release lands acquired under the ULCA earlier to cool down property rates, nothing of that sort has happened.

Roads – Building bridges

Regular commuters on the western side won’t miss the hectic activity off Bandra Reclamation’s shores. Yup, the Bandra Worli Sealink (BWSL) is hustling and bustling with activity. And Public Works Minister, Shri Anil Deshmukh would give anything to be photographed cutting the ribbon next year, due April 2008. Yes, we’re all waiting. Waiting to be stuck in Worli, which will import Mahim’s traffic jam, once the BWSL is ready. Simply because, without the Worli-Nariman Point Sealink, the traffic could very much just shift from one place to be another, only quicker. Incidentally, the controversial Peddar Road Flyover seems to have gone into limbo.

But enough about South Mumbai.

Another sealink which was proposed 30 years ago, but hasn’t been as fortunate as the BWSL, is the Mumbai Transharbour Link, which would connect Sewri to JNPT (Nhava Seva). Nothing’s happened on this project so far in 2007. Just like nothing’s happened on Reliance’s SEZ plans in and around JNPT, Navi Mumbai. Coincidence?.

Coming back on the western side, if there’s one stretch of major road that the city can be proud of completion, as some sign of some progress, it is the Western Express Highway. Widening of this critical highway, around the Borivali and Kandivali area is almost done. 24km long, 61m wide, strengthened at a cost of Rs200crores. Phew, heave that sigh of relief. And you can see the difference if you’ve driven there. On the other side, a similar job on the Eastern Express Highway is also nearing completion.

On an east-west basis as well, the Santacruz-Chembur Link Road (SCLR) and the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR) are due for completion between Jan-June 2008. Even the World Bank – which had, btw, suspended funding of the MUTP road component in March-2006 – said it found “tangible process”. Let’s hope it stays that way. After all, in Mumbai, any progress is good progress.

That concludes my round-up. I will revisit these issues for the 2008 curtain-raiser.