By Tarana Ramachandra
On Wednesday the 10th of october, I exited my school, walked down the lane towards the glossy new building, Kanakia Paris. The beige walls and purple trimming, fencing that looks like a 1960’s french mansion, and guards with taser sticks guarding the entrance. The guards are standing out there all day with sticks, and it seems very unnecessary to me since it’s a residential building. In my opinion, they are there because when there is a glamorous new building, the security should fit the scale. It is indeed an elegant building in BKC, and apartments in the building cost between 2-6 crores to buy. It is an all around very good building, but if you walk a little further down and past the neatly swept driveway you’ll see a different site. The contrast is so different. The Kanakia Paris driveway has expensive cars, and when you cross it there is a lineup of about 200 motorbikes, because they are smaller and more affordable.
The SRA building for Kanakia Paris. SRA stands for Slum Rehabilitation Authority. They provide free housing for the people living in slum land that needs to be torn down and made into another building. Some people say that it’s amazing, free housing and a nice building, but sometimes slums have been in some families for generations. Slums technically aren’t even supposed to exist, they are technically a partial solution to a huge problem. Poverty is way too large in India, and slums are structures built illegally, but you can’t kick people out of a place they’ve “Squatted” in. So this whole scheme is happening in a very legal grey area.
In my opinion, well I have two. I think the whole SRA scheme is a wonderful opportunity for some people, specifically the people who have less business or slower jobs, since they have free homes now, and they have so many more job opportunities with the new building next to it, for example, the gentleman I interviewed told me he was a plumbing contractor, so I assume he gets a lot of business from the building next door. So on one hand it’s awesome for those people. But on the other hand I feel like the SRA building looks so rushed compared to the new swanki one. It’s barely painted and not well maintained, and it looks like the builder finished the building then stopped caring what happens after that, and I’m wondering what happens if something goes wrong or something in the building wears down and breaks, do they come and fix it? When you cross the bridge over the mithi river you see both the buildings side by side. Kanakia Paris is clean, nicely painted, every window looks identical. And the SRA? It barely has one coat of paint, there are rust marks everywhere, and every window has clothes hanging outside. Just another look at the contrast between the two buildings.
I’m going to go back to the point of “what if their slum was in their family for generations and one day it just gets torn down?” Because it’s an important question to ask since I’ve noticed that more often than not those people don’t really get a choice. My mom shot a movie in Dharavi, one of the biggest slums in the world, and she went to someone’s house to interview them and he spoke to her in really good english, welcomed her into his home, and she saw that he had a JBL speaker and things that we have, and he worked at Amazon. So she asked him, “You work at amazon, why are you still living here?” and he said “I have all I need here, my grandfather built this slum and there’s really no need for me to go anywhere else.” Which makes me think that if you’re comfortable with your life, who are the other people to tell you to move? I keep observing in many different circumstances that when people from the upper class get involved in the affairs of lower class people, those people start losing their right to choose. Imagine if one day someone knocked on your door and told you that you had to move your entire family and your life somewhere else for two whole years, have your home destroyed, and then you get to come home to a new building. Even if the end result isn’t that terrible, imagine how much stress it could cause the family.
On the 24th of November, 2021, I had an interview with one of the residents in the SRA next to Kanakia Paris, Mr Mahir Parsha Saini. He told me about him and his family, four people live in the building behind the SRA building. Mr Saini is a plumbing contractor, he’s been living in the building since 1991, so he knows everything about the SRA and what happened over there. “Before this building there was a slum, a big slum. The builders of this building (kanakia paris) came to talk to the residents about the scheme, and 90% of the residents moved into the SRA.” He said 90% of the slum residents moved into the SRA, what happened to the others? I didn’t get an answer in this interview but I assume they packed up and moved to a new place. Then he started talking about the building receiving an FSI. An FSI stands for Floor Space Index, it’s basically the amount of space the building is allowed to have on one floor. He went on to tell me all about the SRA scheme, how the government is planning to reduce every slum in Mumbai and replace it with an SRA, to which I asked him “Do you like the idea of the scheme?” and he replied “Of course I do, all these people got relocated and once the building was finished they all got transferred back here and they’re living in this good building free of cost, of course I like it! We’re getting a house in BKC where rent is normally a few lakhs, and we’re getting it for free!”
“SRA slaps ‘Stop Work’ Notice on Luxury Project in Bandra’ ‘ reads a Mumbai Mirror article about this scheme. The builders violated the CRZ law of the coastal regulatory zone. The CRZ rules make sure that there is maintained balance between the industrial and natural ecosystems, and Kanakia Paris was affecting the forest areas and the slums with the building. The article is very vague though, and there are only two articles that I’ve found on this topic, and they both say the same thing, that the builders had to stop work. The building is still there though, it’s finished, and the SRA building is also done. Why has no one investigated this since it’s supposedly been shut down? I’ve looked at many articles, newspapers and they are all either talking about the recent fire, how the building was sealed due to covid, or how Zinedine Zidane came to Mumbai to promote it. Nothing about the scheme.
There is still so much that’s unanswered about the scheme, what really happened to Kanakia Paris, how they solved their environmental problem, and what happened to the 10% of people that didn’t move back into the building. Who knows what will happen in the next few days, months or years. You learn something new every day.
- Maharashtra, Government. “झोपडपट्टी पुनर्वसन प्राधिकरण, मुंबई.” Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), https://sra.gov.in/dashboard.
- Gadgil, Makarand. “Sra Slaps ‘Stop Work’ Notice on Luxury Project in Bandra.” Mumbai Mirror, Mumbai Mirror, 26 Aug. 2016, https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/civic/sra-slaps-stop-work-notice-on-luxury-project-in-bandra/articleshow/53868038.cms.
- Whether you are buying a new apartment, planning to purchase land or building your own house. “FSI: Meaning, Calculation and Importance.” OUR PROJECTS, 22 Sept. 2021, https://www.godrejproperties.com/blog/fsi-meaning-calculation-and-importance#:~:text=The%20abbreviation%20stands%20for%20Floor,area%20available%20on%20the%20land.
- Saini, Mahil Parsha. “Mr Saini’s Views on The SRA.” 24 Nov. 2021.