Resourceful minority communities in the city are doing all they can to keep their flock together.
Close on the heels of Dawoodi Bohra spiritual leader Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin’s initiative to redevelop 270 buildings in Bhendi Bazaar and rehouse 25,000 residents—mainly Bohra tenants—in new buildings, the Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP) has now unveiled its own housing scheme for the Parsi-Irani community in the city.
“It’s a Rs 450 crore project that envisages the construction of 3,215 new flats after demolishing 958 existing ones. We hope to provide a minimum 650 sq ft carpet area in each flat under this project,’’ said BPP chairman Dinshaw Mehta in an exclusive briefing to TOI last week. Among those the BPP has sought help from are industrialists Ratan Tata and Nusli Wadia.
The 300-year-old BPP is considered to be the largest private landlord in Mumbai, with almost 5,000 flats under its control. Despite the dwindling numbers of Parsis in Mumbai (approximately 45,000), a large section of the community has traditionally looked up to the BPP for its housing needs. Some of the landmark residential enclaves under its control are Cusrow Baug in Colaba and Rustom Baug in Byculla. Currently, the punchayat has a waiting list of 1,200 families.
Over the last couple of years, the BPP’s housing policy has been embroiled in controversy with some trustees having been accused of nepotism in allotting flats. The counter-charge to this is that certain groups with vested interests are deliberately maligning the BPP and tarnishing its image on the housing issue.
In fact, on the eve of the BPP elections last October, Mehta was the target of a massive publicity campaign that sought to defeat him, mainly for his alleged mishandling of the housing issue. However, the campaign boomeranged and Mehta went on to win the elections with the second highest margin.
Last month, the seven BPP trustees met high-profile community developers, architects and housing experts at a five-star hotel in south Mumbai to elicit their views on solving the community’s ‘housing crisis’ over the next decade. Those present at the meeting included developer Boman Irani of Rustomjee, architect Hafeez Contractor and former Tata Housing honcho Fali Poncha.
“We have sought the assistance of the best brains in the community,’’ said BPP trustee Khojeste Mistree. According to the plan, the biggest redevelopment project pertains to the sprawling Nowroz Bag complex near Ganesh Gully, Parel, where the BPP proposes to demolish all the 358 flats and construct 1,008 new ones using additional floor space index. Asked if he anticipated resistance from the existing tenants, Mehta said 80% of the residents were in favour of the redevelopment. “However, there is opposition from some,’’ he admitted.
Zarir Bhatena, a Parsi developer who was one of the invitees at the meeting, said the plan was feasible and implementable. “But one still has to study the financial and legal implications. We are going to discuss these issues soon,’’ he said.
Architect Hafeez Contractor said the BPP had the land and the resources to execute this project. “Everybody has a clear vision to help the poor in the community. However, I believe there are some people with a wrong agenda who will oppose this project. I hope time is not wasted on frivolous litigation,’’ he said. Contractor added that he was ready to assist the BPP on building laws and designing. “My services will be gratis,’’ he claimed.
Kersi Randeria of the Alert Zoroastrian Association, who has crossed swords with the BPP over its housing policy, said although he does not know the details of the project, a lot of questions needed to be asked and answered by the punchayat. “Is the BPP legally permitted to redevelop these properties? Can it construct ownership buildings, and what happens to the Parsis-only covenants once it redevelops these buildings?’’
Randeria also questioned a high-rise building being constructed by the BPP in the Godrej Baug complex at Napean Sea Road, where each flat is being proposed to be sold for Rs 3 crore to rich Parsis. But the punchayat claimed that the sale of these flats would fetch Rs 80 crore, which would be used to subsidise housing for poor members of the community.
However, Randeria cautioned that any hasty decision by the trustees could be disastrous.
Original article here.