Chor Bazaar tradesmen fear displacement

Mumbai's market is a tourist attraction, but faces development dilemma

geetanjali

Geetanjali Minhas | December 21, 2011


A view of Chor Bazaar
A view of Chor Bazaar

The ambitious Rs 2,000 crore Bhendi Bazaar revamp by Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) seems to have roused redevelopment suspicions among non- Bohra Muslim communities in the area affected by the project.

The 16.5 acre area covering Maulana Shaukat Ali Road (JJ Hospital signal) on northern side to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Road on southern side, Ebrahim Rehmatullah Road on eastern side to Mutton Street on western side will be redeveloped in a cluster redevelopment project under GR 33(9) of Development Control Rules.

But what seems to be raising suspicions of tradesmen affected by redevelopment at the iconic antique market popularly known as Chor Bazaar on Mutton Street is the fact that the layout of the shops and the shop numbers are missing from the redevelopment maps and brochures handed out by SBUT. Also, the trust's take on this matter is highly dubious.

The area has 3,200 residential and 1,200 commercial establishments. On an average, more than 75 percent of of a population of 25,000 live in less than 125 sq ft of area. Irrespective of any size less than 300 sq ft, SBUT will give them homes with 350 sq ft of carpet area. 95 percent of the building's area is ceased and therefore falls under MHADA for which the authority’s FSI certification is under process. According to the trustees, SBUT has purchased almost 80% of the 279 buildings and has also built 1,400 transit homes at Mazgaon.

The project is to be completed in two phases spanning over a period of 5 years. While 70 percent people are from the Bohra community, the rest belong to other Muslim communities and about two percent are Hindus' running commercial establishments.

On behalf of the Mutton Street Vyapar Mandal, Mohammad Salim, 50, who has been working in the area for the past 30 years as a watch repairer explained that Mutton Street is over 100 years old. The antique market Chor Baazar is a touristy place where people from all over the world, especially antique and treasure hunters, come. “Ex US president Bill Clinton also wanted to pay a visit but could not due to security concerns. It is our bread and butter and we store all our goods here. The 150 odd shopkeepers/owners who will be affected by redevelopment fully support the project only if it is carried out as per the laws but unlike residential flats, SBUT has not demarcated shops with numbers in their layout plans and they are pressurizing us to sign the agreement.”

Locals are peeved that Burhani Trust has cordoned off some lanes in the area causing great inconvenience to people and view that redevelopment is taking place mainly for the upliftment of their own community. They also allege that in connivance with corrupt  police and BMC officials, the trust is directly pressurizing tenants of non-Bohra communities to hand over tenancy rights and forcefully buying out buildings from Bohras to form 70 percent  majority for redevelopment under GR 33(9).

Shaikh Abdeali Bhanpurawala, executive secretary, PR and government affairs, SUBT, says that cluster redevelopment is taking place under GR 33 (9) of DC Rules and not 33(7). “In place of 279 buildings, 16 modern and eco-friendly buildings will be constructed and there is bound to be dislocation of shops by 300-350 metres as we need to widen the roads, build parks, green areas and shopping malls. An antique market will be created, though retaining the original flavor of Mutton Street may not be fully possible in revamp.”

Bhanpurawala adds, “Because of congestion, two and four wheelers cannot ply and moreover the area is also filthy. People have difficulty in getting their children admitted to schools if they say they are from Bhendi Bazaar and also in getting their children married for the same reason. Getting credit cards is also difficult if you say your address is Mumbai-3. The area is notorious for its underworld affiliations.”

The redevelopment plans have been in practice for two years now, yet only three meetings have been conducted. The official negotiations between SBUT and shopowners/keepers have not been initiated. As per the records available with tradesmen, so far the trust has only interacted with Mutton Street tradesmen through unsigned or unnamed communiqués and their representatives who have pressurised them to sign on agreements. This has lead to suspicion and mistrust among those who are running commercial establishments.

The tradesmen want to directly deal with the trust and not get involved in any liaison with the architects or the contractors. The tradesmen demand clearly demarcated layout plans of individual shops with their numbers at their current location and specify that they are only ready to accommodate minor shifting of their shops. They have also raised alarm on the fact that while the residents would be shifted to transit homes, the shopkeepers/owners would only be paid a monthly rent over the period of redevelopment.

Alleging the trust of non-transparency in its endeavour, the shopkeepers have refrained from consenting to the redevelopment plan. The traders have insisted on being compensated as they would be handing over their business to SBUT. “When in place of three- four storey buildings the trust will earn billions of rupees after the construction of buildings which are more than 40-storeyed, we must be suitably compensated as we would be handing over our shops to the trust.” says a shopkeeper who has earned out of Mutton Street for more than 40 years. “This is an iconic market visited by people from across the globe. We want our Mutton Street in its original flavor otherwise our business will suffer and compensation must be as per the rules. If they are undertaking redevelopment they should carry it out properly else we are happy in our space” says Salim.

The charter of demands prepared by Mutton Street Vyapar Mandal among other requirements insist that shops must be relocated at the same place with variation of five to ten meter on the same street facing main road, height of shop must be as per current standards of 16 feet against 13 feet mentioned by SBUT and loft size should be equal to carpet area of shop as against 1/3 mentioned by the trust. Basement parking must be provided for customers. Due to shifting of the shops during redevelopment, compensation must be paid as normal business will be severely affected.

The famous Friday market will continue in the same street after redevelopment is finished. During the period of redevelopment, shopkeepers should be paid rent equivalent to that of Antique Market behind Taj Hotel in Colaba from where they can run their business. If possession is not given on time then rent will increase by 25% after first quarter, 50% after second quarter, 75% after third quarter and 100% after fourth quarter. If possession is delayed further, the rent should double by 20% every month. If work stops due to unforeseen contingencies, rent should be paid in advance. Shopkeepers also demand that registered agreement must clearly mention detailed layout plan and name of authorized person of SBUT under taking the redevelopment process. Another shop owner, Afzal Mansoori adds, “We whole heartedly support redevelopment in a transparent and systematic manner as per the laws.” We will come out with detailed layout plans once the official talks with shopkeepers get started in three weeks’ time” Bhanpurawala said when asked that tradesmen are asking for layout plans of shops.

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