MPAC to hold protest march tomorrow against mill land decision

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Mumbai, Mar 13 (UNI) Mumbai People's Action Committee (MPAC), a forum of city-based NGOs, trade unions, professionals will hold a protest march tomorrow at Azad Maidan to create awareness about the 'hazards' of the recent Supreme Court verdict on mill lands among the people of the metropolis.

A press release issued here by the MPAC has called upon the people to join hands to fight for open spaces, clean air, infrastructure and public housing for the city.

It said Maharashtra government must legislate for citizens not only mill owners and builders.

''The people of Mumbai are shocked by the Supreme Court judgment on mill lands. The Supreme Court judgment has not only given commercial interests more importance than the collective needs of a dying city, it has actually supported the blatantly illegitimate demands of the builders and mill owners. Its implications are far reaching'', the release said.

According to the release, 600 acres of land in the heart of Mumbai is occupied by textile mills, most of which have been closed.

Much of this land was leased to the mill owners or sold at very low rates for the purpose of starting mills over a century ago. The land could not be sold, until 1991 when the law was amended, then too mainly for reviving sick mills. Today when the mills have shut down, there is a rush to exploit it as real estate, without providing livelihood and homes to the mill workers and much needed infrastructure for the city.

According to Rule 58 of the DCR of 1991, mill lands can be sold, provided one-third is reserved for public use like parks and play grounds, one-third for affordable housing and one-third for owners to develop as they pleased. Mill owners got equal FSI for the land that they were 'giving up'. But they were greedy for more. A modification in 2001 by the Maharashtra Government reduced the land available for public spaces -- parks, playgrounds pedestrian areas, etc -- from 200 acres to just 32 acres. Where there would have been 45,000 low cost houses, there would now be just 5000 houses. This was struck down by the Mumbai High Court and now reinstated by the Supreme Court, the release said.

''The extensive unplanned commercial development that would take place as a result of this sale, would cause terrible congestion, traffic problems and put an enormous strain on existing services which are woefully inadequate. Only Mumbaiites can truly understand what this means,'' the statement said.

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