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Babus get world tour for selling Dharavi!





By: Gigil Varghese
September 2, 2004 (excerpt from
mid-day.com, the flagship website of Mid Day Multimedia Ltd, a Mumbai-based media conglomerate that owns four newspaper brands in three languages : Mid Day, Sunday Mid Day, Gujarati Mid Day and The Inquilab, and a radio station)


Three bureaucrats from the state housing department will soon go on a junket to the US, UK, Canada, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Dubai to “sell” Dharavi.

The three - N Ramrao, principal secretary, housing department, Ujjwal Uke, CEO, Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), and Mukesh Mehta, a government consultant for Dharavi projects - will apparently hunt abroad for builders who could give Asia’s biggest slum a swanky new look as per the state government’s Dharavi redevelopment plan.

The plan, worth Rs 8,600 crore, involves construction of buildings for relocating the original slumdwellers as also trendy towers, commercial complexes, large green expanses and hospitals.

The babus were supposed to leave for the ‘world tour’ on August 29 itself, but the visit was put off at the last minute.

According to Mehta, it was “cancelled” due to procedural problems, while Ramrao said it had only been “put on hold” due to the election code of conduct.

While none of the three babus or any other official of the housing department were aware of the tour’s costs, Minister for Housing Syed Ahmed said the trip was being sponsored by HUDCO.

Assuring that the trip was “still on”, Ahmed asked: “Why are you looking at this trip so negatively? The tour will make us acquire better technology for construction of buildings. It will also make sure we have better access to quality construction materials.”

According to former housing minister Nawab Malik, construction companies in Holland, Canada, Korea and Malaysia had first come up with the idea of such a tour.

“About four to five months ago, these companies came forward and offered to pay for the trip. They wanted our housing department officials to see the kind of construction happening there,” said Malik.

According to the three babus, their visit will make builders abroad aware of the potential in Mumbai.

“We can make the international community aware of the work done by the Maharashtra government and introduce a healthy competition among builders here. We can also tell the world the kind of work India is doing with respect to slum rehabilitation,” Mehta said.

Asked if there was any need for ‘international’ builders when Mumbai had its own professional community of builders, Mehta said the move would bring in foreign exchange. “And the SRA (the nodal agency given the task of redeveloping Dharavi) will also get a higher premium,” he noted.

However, Damodar Naik, secretary of Dharavi Bachao Samiti, asked: "What is the need to sell Dharavi to foreigners? We do not mind if the technology is foreign, but we have so many Indian builders who are globally acclaimed.”

The five-year Dharavi redevelopment plan

The state government’s five-year Dharavi redevelopment plan, called Dharam, is worth Rs 8,600 crore.

While the original slumdwellers will be relocated in newly-built buildings, plush residential and commercial complexes apart from hospitals and large green spaces will be allowed to be developed.

Dharavi will be divided into 10 sectors for the plan’s implementation. The Centre, the state government and HUDCO are supposed to finance the plan together.

Where they’ll be going

• The United States
• United Kingdom
• Canada
• Netherlands
• Hong Kong
• Japan
• Singapore
• Malaysia
• Dubai