Mumbaikars were promised houses, but were they delivered?

Local governance

At Mumbai Votes, we spent the last year tracking and assessing the performance of MPs against the promises they made before election and during the first year (2019-20), of their five year term. 

All of the six MPs made promises to expedite long pending redevelopment & rehabilitation of slums and old buildings. In a city with more than half its population living in slums, and several collapses of old buildings, it is reasonable to expect elected representatives to prioritise the issue of safe, affordable and dignified housing for all. 

In this piece, I will assess their efforts to fulfil their ‘housing’ promises. 

Broadly, a total of 46 promises ranging from completion of transport projects, infrastructure development to mangrove conservation were made by the incumbent MPs from Mumbai during Lok Sabha Election 2019. 

Now, there are two ways to get to know their performance. One, is to look for information  available in the public domain, and the other is to hear directly from elected representatives themselves. 

In the absence of legally mandatory requirements to declare performance against promises, impunity enjoyed by politicos and the lack of democratic spirit of voluntarily declaring performance, we had to rely solely on information available in the public domain.

Member of ParliamentPromisePerformance (Public Source)Performance (Self Declared)
Gopal ShettyExpediting long pending slum rehabilitation projects and redevelopment projects of old buildings is my priority number one. (Mumbai Mirror April 2019)Of the 95 questions raised in the house, MP Gopal Shetty addressed 3 questions to the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, of which, only one dealt directly with housing, enquiring whether Union Government’s vision of “housing for all is going on as per targets”, while one question addressed to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change enquired about Slum Rehabilitation Projects in Coastal Regulation Zone.
Outside the house, MP wrote to the incumbent Chief Minister of Maharashtra raising the issue of legalisation of first floor of slums.
To his credit, he managed to resolve the long pending issue of stalling of construction work in the vicinity of defence establishments in his constituency.
No response received despite repeated reminders over phone calls, messages and emails.
Member of ParliamentPromisePerformance (Public Source)Performance (Self Declared)
Gajanan KirtikarMy prime focus will be expediting slum redevelopment projects on the Centre’s land, which are stuck in the absence of no-objection certificates. There are thousands of residents in various pockets in my constituency who are awaiting rehabilitation.
(Hindustan Times April 2019 http://mumbaivotes.com/)
Of the 195 questions raised in the house, two were addressed to the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs. 
He participated in four debates to request the Defence Minister to “lift the restriction and give permission for the repair, restoration and maintenance of the old buildings”, to “formulate a policy so that the Civil Aviation Ministry could give a ‘No Objection Certificate’, to the Government of Maharashtra for rehabilitating slum dwellers on the vacant land of the Airports Authority of India”, and requesting the Aviation Ministry should pay immediate attention to the problem of slum rehabilitation on Mumbai Airport land. 
He also sought to know whether the Government has taken stringent measures to protect the interest of flat buyers and control the builders in the country; and lower taxes for home buyers.
No response received despite repeated reminders over phone calls, messages and emails.
Member of ParliamentPromisePerformance (Public Source)Performance (Self Declared)
Manoj KotakMore than 1.50 lakh affordable houses on saltpan land. (Hindustan Times April 2019)Of the 83 questions raised in the house, five were addressed to the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, out of which one sought to know “the number of low-cost housing complexes constructed by the Government during the last five years especially in Mumbai. (Q. No. 2175).” No response received despite repeated reminders over phone calls, messages and emails.
Member of ParliamentPromisePerformance (Public Source)Performance (Self Declared)
Poonam MahajanSpeedy allotment of houses to airport slum dwellers and fast-tracking of other slum rehabilitation projects. (Mumbai Mirror April 2019)Of the 87 questions raised in the house, six were addressed to the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, of which two sought to know the status of Union Government’s “Housing for All” scheme.No response received despite repeated reminders over phone calls, messages and emails.
Member of ParliamentPromisePerformance (Public Source)Performance (Self Declared)
Rahul shewaleMy main priority is redevelopment of old buildings and slums. (Hindustan Times May 2019)Participated in a debate in the Parliament to raise the issue of lack of funds for Slum Rehabilitation Schemes and the need to bail out such projects to speed up the process of slum rehabilitation.No response received despite repeated reminders over phone calls, messages and emails.
Member of ParliamentPromisePerformance (Public Source)Performance (Self Declared)
Arvind SawantRehabilitation of slums and chawls on Bombay Port Trust land by giving free housing. (Mumbai Mirror April 2019)Participated in three debates in the house: Requested the Defence Minister to lift the restriction on construction surrounding defence establishments in the city and give permission for the repair, restoration and maintenance of the old buildings, requested the government to give permission to repair old buildings and raised objection against Mumbai Port Trust demolishing slums without rehabilitating them under Housing for All Scheme, to formulate laws to protect and guarantee homes to people living in slums on central government land. 
Raised two questions in the house “to know whether the Government is aware of the poor condition of residential buildings on leased plots at Mumbai Port Trust (MPT)” and “to know the details of the houses constructed under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) in Maharashtra since June, 2015.”
No response received despite repeated reminders over phone calls, messages and emails.

Ideally, their performance in the house and other efforts (like coordinating with state and local governments) should reflect their performance against promises. However, as we have already stated elsewhere that “judging MPs on their attendance, how many questions they have raised in the House and how much MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) funds they have spent is not the most fair approach in analysing their performance.”

Declaring promises as broad strokes makes for big news, but the lack of a transparent and scrutinisable action plan obfuscates what MPs individually and collectively can achieve, especially in the context of tug-of-war between center-state relations. For instance, how feasible is it for an MP to promise “more than 1.50 lakh affordable houses on saltpan land” without an action plan?

Five of six incumbent MPs are in their second term, and similar promises about housing were made in the last term. It would be reasonable to read their performance as a cumulative effort of the last six years to provide housing for all.

As of now there is not enough institutional pressure on elected representatives to come clean about their performance.

If the media, with the help of civil society groups, begin to hold the elected representatives to account seriously, then I am sure elected representatives cannot continue enjoying the impunity they currently do.

About Avinay Umesh-Sanyogita 3 Articles
Avinay Umesh-Sanyogita is a development studies graduate from Ambedkar University Delhi. Currently looks after research & operations at the Informed Voter Project.