State grants complete land ownership rights to residents of refugee colonies in Mumbai

State grants complete land ownership rights to residents of refugee colonies in Mumbai
An earlier clash between Sion Koliwada residents and BMC over demolition of 25 buildings ended in lathicharge (Picture Courtesy: Deepak Salvi/Live Photo)

Over 70 years after scores of refugees fled West Pakistan and settled in Maharashtra, the state cabinet converted their lands from leasehold to freehold, thereby granting them rights to develop or sell their properties without the state’s permission.

On Tuesday, the State Cabinet approved a change to the property card of the structures to class I, giving them ‘freehold’ status. The change authorises residents to sell, redevelop, or rent their properties without the collector’s nod.

Over 30 lakh migrants, mostly from Sindhi and Punjabi communities, had settled across 31 different settlements, called refugee colonies, in Maharashtra post partition. Five such settlements were in Mumbai.

The move will provide major relief to over 5,000 families residing in these colonies, which include Sion Koliwada Colony (Sion), Wadia Trust Estate (Kurla), Chembur Colony (Chembur), Thakkar Bappa Colony (Chembur) and Mulund Colony (Mulund).

The ones in Mulund and Sion are among the biggest, occupying roughly 100 acres each.

Till now, for any change in ownership, residents had to take permission from the collector and pay 50 percent of the unearned money to the state government as ‘transfer fee’. The unearned money was the difference between the sale and purchase price.

This inadvertently discouraged developers from investing in such areas, leaving them undeveloped for the most part. The need for redevelopment was at its peak now as most of the structures had outlived their age.

For example, 25 buildings Sion Koliwada have been labeled unfit for habitation since a decade. But the civic body has been unable to pull them down due to staunch opposition from residents and local politicians.

The state, meanwhile, is planning to redevelop all such colonies in Mumbai on the lines of the incentive redevelopment model used for the reconstruction of the Bombay Development Department (BDD) chawls.

Incidentally, the process for land tenure conversion was initiated back in 2006 for settlements in Dhule and Jalgaon. The Cabinet has now extended the same model to all such colonies in the state.

The migrants were reportedly allotted land as compensation under the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Act, 1954 after they left all their belongings in Pakistan and migrated to India.

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