On 28th May, a meeting to protest the amendment to the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999 was organized at the YMCA, Colaba by the Colaba Merchants Association. The meeting was attended by commercial as well as residential tenants from Colaba and elsewhere in Mumbai.
Mr. Viren Shah, President FRTWA conducted the meeting, which was attended by BJP Chief Whip and former Housing Minister MLA Shri Raj Purohit, MLA Shri Amin Patel, Corporator Shri Makarand Narvekar, Mr. Chandrashekhar Prabhu, Mr. Datta Iswalkar and others.
According to the Draft Housing Policy, the freezing of rents under the Rent Act is “one of the key factors leading to dilapidation of old and cessed buildings.” The Policy indicates that this amendment is made with a view to incentivize landlords “to maintain and preserve buildings”.
This stated object does not stand up to scrutiny.
In February, a seminar on Housing Policy was attended by the Chief Minister, Housing Minister, Housing Secretary, top builders, NGOs, well-known individuals in the field of housing and various government officers.
A Report on the Draft Policy was prepared by YASHADA (The Yashwantrao Chavan Academy for Development Administration) after a few meetings. On 5th April Version 4 of YASHADA’s report was circulated. This version has no amendment to the 1999 Rent Act. On 15th April 2015 the State Government officially circulated the Final Draft Policy in Marathi, in which the amendment to the Rent Act has been added.
What happened between 5th and 15th April? Why was this amendment suddenly added? Why were tenant organizations and the group assisting the government prepare the policy unaware of it? Where is the study/survey/data on which this amendment is based? Why is the Govt. rushing through with this with no discussion at all? And that too during the school summer holiday period when a large number of people are not in the city?
Today, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis gave the keynote lecture at an event hosted by the Maharashtra Economic Development Council.
Mr. Chandrashekhar Prabhu, DG, MEDC addressed the audience, setting the tone for the lecture by the Chief Minister. Mr. Prabhu raised several issues in his address, including the Draft Housing Policy, which includes an amendment to the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999. Mr. Prabhu noted that this is during the pendency of the challenge to Rent Act pending in the Supreme Court, through which the landlords seek to evict over a crore of tenants. Mr. Prabhu brought the implications of the policy to the attention of the Chief Minister, stating that lakhs of tenants would be evicted and urged the Chief Minister to revisit the proposed amendment.
In his lecture, the Chief Minister addressed, amongst other topics, several issues raised by Mr. Prabhu. However, the Chief Minister was silent on the issue of the Draft Housing Policy.
In the question and answer session after the lecture, Mr. Viren Shah, President of the Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association, requested the Chief Minister to comment on the Draft Housing Policy and the dis-housing of lakhs of tenants thereby.
The Chief Minister replied saying that the housing policy “is a draft policy” and was “prepared by YASHADA” (Yashwantrao Chavan Academy for Development Administration) and has not yet gone to the Cabinet. The Chief Minister invited suggestions and changes to the policy and said “tell us the facts, convince us, and we will change it.” It appears from this statement that the Govt. intends to amend the Rent Act unless and until they are convinced otherwise.