|Maken at his office in New Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Oct. 30: Ajay Maken is about to pick a harvest of low-hanging fruit left behind by predecessor Kumari Selja. The draft Model Property Rights for Slum Dwellers Bill will be the first populist decision off the blocks.
According to sources, the final draft had been lying on Selja’s table for almost a fortnight. “All she had to do was sign it,” a senior official said.
The draft was first circulated in last November. In the face of staunch opposition from several states, including Bengal, the ministry had to make several changes to it.
The model bill had promised absolute property rights to anyone living in an urban slum since June 2009. The states were against granting “absolute” rights. Instead, the amended bill proposes that slum dwellers should get legal entitlement to the property.
The slum dweller will get “long-term property rights” but the land will continue to remain with the government. Although the lease term has not been defined, it could be up to 30 years, to be extended up to 90 years.
Since this is a model bill, it is not compulsory for the states to adopt it. But to make sure they do, the housing ministry had made its implementation a condition for grant of central funds under the Rajiv Awas Yojana.
“We have reached a springboard and now it is time to leap,” Maken said, acknowledging the ground covered by his predecessor.
The other big-ticket policy decision on the verge of fruition is the Real Estate Regulatory Bill. The ministry had worked on it for more than two years, lobbying with real estate firms and the states, and presented it before the cabinet on October 25. But it got deferred on turf issues.
According to sources, urban development minister Kamal Nath said it was his ministry’s prerogative to present the bill. The cabinet postponed discussion.
“I am not going to get into any turf war with Kamal Nath. We will sit together and sort out the problem,” Maken said.
The preparatory stage of Rajiv Awas Yojana is also over. “The slums will not be thrown out of the city…. The slum dwellers have to rehabilitated within 5km of the place they exist,” he said.