The petition was prompted after the Slum Rehabilitation Authority issued the letter of intent to a developer based on plans submitted by him recently.
Mumbai: The washermen at the famed Dhobi Ghat at Mahalaxmi have approached the Bombay high court seeking directions to the state and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to ensure that their livelihood is not taken away from them.
The petition was prompted after the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) issued the letter of intent to a developer based on plans submitted by him recently. The plan does not have any mention about the area where the washermen or dhobis dry the clothes despite the fact that the development proposal by SRA had mentioned reservation and allocation of a separate area for the purpose.
According to the petition filed by two of washermen representing the 730 dhobis at Mahalaxmi, they were allotted around 7,724.61 square metres of land for washing clothes and drying them by the BMC almost 120 years ago. The area included land assigned for washing stones as well as drying areas. While earlier the entire area measuring 28,455 square metres was used exclusively by the dhobis, slums started sprouting around the washing and drying area and these slums were censused in 1985 and recognised as Saibaba Housing Society. In 2003, the society decided to opt for redevelopment of 22,002 square metres of land on which their homes were built leaving the remaining plot for the dhobis.
Speaking about the petition, advocate Rama Subramanium said that in 2014 the society appointed Omkar Realtors for the Slum Rehabilitation scheme and the developer submitted a proposal to the SRA and applied for the letter of intent (LOI) in 2015. The proposal approved by the SRA stated that the dhobis would be given adequate land for carrying out their work in the rehabilitation scheme, however the LOI had no mention of the same, hence the petition.
“The washermen and many people involved in the trade are being short-changed by the developer and neither the SRA or the BMC is taking note of the same,” said Ms Subramanium. She further said that during a hearing between the authorities, developer and washermen, the developer had proposed modern techniques of drying but the issue was left for the BMC to decide.
“Even though it has been more than two years since the issue was discussed and the SRA CEO had asked the developer to maintain a status quo on the drying area, the developer has started evicting the dhobis and taking over the plot, hence they are aggrieved,” said Ms Subramanium. The petition is expected to come up for hearing before Justice Shantanu Kemkar and Justice Makarand Karnik in the next week.