Update 2 on Day 6th : Negotiations with Chief Secretary Remain Inconclusive
May 25, Mumbai : After five hours of long negotiations between the Chief Secretary, Mr. Ratnakar Gaekwad, Medha Patkar and their respective teams an agreement over the demands could not be reached finally. At one point, an agreement seemed to have been arrived on three points : 1) accepting the proposal for 19 settlements and any more to be given in next two days to be declared as slums under the Maharashtra Slums Act, 1971 after due process; b) a meeting chaired by the Chief Secretary to be convened along with NAPM members, Central Government officials and state officials on June 10 on the Rajeev Gandhi Awas Yojana; c) formation of a sub committee to look into the irregularities under the existing High Powered Committee, chaired by Chief Secretary, appointed by Honourable HC in 2005 meant for reviewing the policies & recommend, amend or suggest new policies to government of Maharashtra.
However, our demand was to institute an independent enquiry committee involving civil society representatives with terms of reference decided during negotiation and notified through an official notification while the fast is on. This Committee was to enquire into all the complaints related to public housing projects by builders which are raised on behalf of the people in the area to be covered by 3K projects including the one by Shivalik Ventures where documentary fraud has been proved and criminal cases filed by the residents. And until a report is submitted and action taken by the government, till then put moratorium on all the demolitions in the city.
The talks remained inconclusive since, Chief Secretary didn't agree to commit a time period for the Committee to start work and complete the task of investigation. Chief Secretary was hostile towards the end and kept emphasising that he has already given enough and people need to trust his words that he will make sure things happen. One of the residents in the meeting quipped, “then give us your promise in writing, since you might not be Chief Secretary tomorrow”. Suburban Collector Nirmal Deshmukh later said that, “Time-bound functioning of the High power committee is not possible as it is defunct due to the High Court order that set a cut off date for slum rehabilitation as January 1, 1995. We tried to comply with most of her demands but some of her demands were not reasonable.”
Medha Patkar added that, “this committee has been defunct after having held not more than three meetings till date. The committee does have representatives of civil society organisations and were nominees of people's movements as per High Court Directives, however, the overall composition had large number of government officials. That there is no doubt that current Chief Secretary is powerful enough to influence the policy makers. However, it is also known that the function of the committee was sabotaged. In such situation, if such a committee has to play a role of investigator into cases of frauds in various facts and documents, the modus operandi has to be similar to SIT. This would require giving powers of hearing to representatives of people and assessing large number of frauds. This does not seem to be possible by Sub Committee of the larger committee composed out of the present member. There need not be any further confusion or arbitrariness left behind since the conflict and crisis in each of the 3K cases has reached its peak and sword of demolition is hanging. It is therefore necessary to set time limit of enquiry which can do justice to people.”
The talks remained inconclusive but Medha's and Syed Zuber's fast will continue. Later in the evening Shabana Azmi visited the dharna site and lent her support and solidarity to the movement.
Prerna Gaekwad, Santosh Daundkar, Deven Nair, Simpreet Singh
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