By Faisal Malik: Following allegations of corruption and irregularities, the Maharashtra government has asked the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to introduce an online system for slum redevelopment projects to bring in transparency and weed out delays. The system is likely to be ready in a month, said a senior official from the housing department.
From submitting application to SRA to handing over documents to final approval for project, everything will be done online, said the official.
Slum redevelopment projects in the city are under cloud after a social activist alleged that a bribe of Rs11 crore was offered to him to prevent him from revealing a slum revamp scam. Before this, state housing minister Prakash Mehta allegedly interfered in a slum project in Tardeo. Vishwas Patil, former chief of SRA, was accused of clearing at least 120 files in the last month before he retired.
Under the slum redevelopment scheme, slum residents choose a developer who use their land to build a rehabilitation units and a saleable units. The latter are sold in the open market to fund the rehabilitation units and earn a profit. The developer also gets incentive in the form of buildable area to make the project sustainable. With crores of rupees at stake, SRA projects are mired in corruption and irregularities, thanks to a nexus among builders, bureaucrats and some politicians. The SRA scheme was launched with an aim to clear Mumbai of slums. In the past 21 years, it managed to rehabilitate only 1.53 lakh people. Only 3 lakh houses have been constructed under the scheme.
Apart from the government’s move to go online, it has told all developers to mandatorily register SRA projects with the Real Estate Regulation Authority (RERA), newly-formed housing regulatory authority.
The integrated system will be connected to all government department so that they can verify documents submitted by developers.
“Our objective is to end human intervention and subsequently weed out irregularities and make people accountable for any wrongdoing. This will be achieved by introducing systematic procedure provided by a deadline for issuing each and every permission,” the official said.
“The system will verify documents on its own and issue approvals without any human intervention. We are also in the process of making software for the same,” said a senior official of SRA.
The documents being used for the online process have to be self-attested, which means that the parties will have to take the onus for any wrong doing, he said.
Earlier, there was no mechanism to check the veracity of the submitted documents. Now everything will be in public domain as the entire set of documents and the status of every project will be made available on the SRA website for the public, the officer added.
However, three things will be done manually as they cannot be completed online. These include area measurement, slum plan and head count of tenants (tenants’ verification) by the authorities.
The housing activists have welcomed the development but are also sceptical about its implementation. Santosh Daunkar, a housing activist, who has exposed several scams, said, “Bringing such a process is a good move but the government needs to ensure there are no loopholes. There are instances where senior officer put pressure on their subordinates to cleare a file. I hope the online system will prevent this.”