Kamathipura Redevelopment seems to be one of the favourite agenda of all the governments that come to power in Maharashtra. Once again its up, after the new housing minister Jitendra Awhad visited MHADA on Tuesday.
By Varun Singh
Kamathipura Redevelopment has a lot of similarities to Dharavi Redevelopment. Both are talked about a lot, but not much has happened on the ground.
Every time a new government comes to power, there’s a new housing minister for the cabinet or the state. All of them have Kamathipura redevelopment on their agenda.
Once again the topic has cropped up. This time because, the new housing minister Jitendra Awhad along with the junior minister Satej Patil visited MHADA.
Awhad has asked the housing authority MHADA’s Redevelopment and Reconstruction board to start work on Kamathipura redevelopment.
A public notice issued by the landlords of Kamathipura in the year 2014, had pegged the total area of the red light district to 52 acres. Of which close to 10 acres is being redeveloped by a private developer.
With around 1000 buildings comprising of thousands of tenants, this area has close to 700 buildings which are dilapidated and need urgent redevelopment.
The minister now wants the redevelopment of Kamathipura to be carried out on the same lines as that of Bhendi Bazaar. Bhendi Bazaar is being redeveloped under the development control rules of 33 (9), which gives higher FSI and is meant for larger developments.
Redeveloped Kamathipura won’t accommodate Sex Workers.
Kamathipura is known as the red light district of Mumbai. The small lanes in the area have been witness to commercial sex work for centuries.
While redevelopment is the need of the hour, at the same time, there also exist a complex problem which many do not like to talk about.
Kamathipura is home to close to 2500 commercial sex workers. While a majority them reside within the bylanes of Kamathipura, many around 1000-800 have moved out.
Sanjay Shinde, an activist who has worked in Kamathipura says. “Many were forced to move out, as the landlords drove the madams out and instead gave the same dwellings to people carrying out other business apart from commercial sex work.”
According to Shinde, around 1000-800 women went out to far extended suburbs or western, central and even harbour line of Mumbai.
Most of them would come to Kamathipura in the evening, do their work and return next morning back to their homes in the suburbs.
However, even of this floating commercial sex workers population, Shinde claims around 20 per cent have come back because of the traveling issues.
The question is whether these sex workers who have stayed here for decades together, will be rehabilitated once Kamathipura is redeveloped?
Shinde says no, he says most women associated with the commercial sex work business are driven out and developers have bought the buildings. All of them are just waiting that government gives a nod for redevelopment and Kamathipura is redeveloped, but without these women in sight.