Bangalore: The Rs9,250 crore makeover of Dharavi, Asia’s largest shanty town, has been hindered as the body tasked with executing the project does not have a chief. The absence of a chief executive officer in the Dharavi Development Authority (DDA) for the last two months has slowed the country’s most ambitious slum redevelopment scheme.
Empowered : Women at a pottery unit in Dharavi, Mumbai
Home to around 60,000 families and spread across 535 acres, the annual turnover of businesses that run out of Dharavi is more than Rs4,000 crore. Nineteen consortia, including a number of global players, are competing to bag the mandate to build the project that is slated to transform the tenements to a planned township.
The authority has been headless since the abrupt exit of T. Chandrasekhar, former chief of Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA).
Senior DDA officials said the project is at the crucial bidding stage where five consortia have to be selected now from the shortlisted 19 for the five sectors of the Dharavi project. “The redevelopment of Dharavi is not an easy task. The most important role of the project chief is that of coordination, where he has to interact with all the interested parties such as slum dwellers, concerned political leaders and bidders,” said Jockin Arputham, head of the National Slumdwellers Federation. Arputham is a Magsaysay Award winner.
The much-delayed Dharavi project has constantly faced stumbling blocks.
Last year, I. S. Chahal, the first DDA chief, was suddenly replaced by Chandrasekhar, who was then touted as the government’s point man to quickly execute the project.
The project has been stuck at the pre-bidding stage after 19 consortia were shortlisted in January this year. Various mandatory surveys, such as the biometrics-based baseline socio-economic survey are still not complete.
The Maharashtra government is now looking out for a new chief executive for the Dharavi project. It is busy screening several Indian Administrative Service officers.
“We have been looking out for a suitable candidate for the post and have shortlisted a few people. We should be able to appoint a new CEO in a month’s time,” said Johny Joseph, state chief secretary.
Though Shrikant Singh, chief of the slum rehabilitation authority, has been looking after Dharavi temporarily, Joseph admitted that the project needs a dedicated CEO.
Developers agree that the absence of a chief has only aggravated the existing problems. “The lack of a chief is definitely a problem as there is a lot of political interference and the interests of slum dwellers also have to be looked after,” said Hemant Shah, chairman of Akruti Ltd, one of the bidders in the project.