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.
Mr. Iswalkar and Mr. Prabhu addressed the meeting on the background of the amendment as well as the controversial manner and circumstances in which the Draft Housing Policy was prepared and circulated by the State Government. Mr. Prabhu and Mr. Iswalkar forcefully opposed the amendment to the Rent Act.
Mr. Purohit reminded the audience that he was instrumental in the enactment of the 1999 Act and that it was thanks to him that the practice of pugree (paagdi) was given legal recognition under the Rent Act. He vocally opposed the amendment contained in the Draft Housing Policy saying he would do everything in his power to see that the amendment is removed from the Draft Housing Policy. Mr. Purohit also said that the amendment was neither in the interest of the public nor the BJP.
Mr. Purohit also highlighted the controversial manner and circumstances in which the policy was prepared.
Mr. Amin vocally opposed the amendment saying that he believes that the amendment is a part of a larger coordinated plan to empty Mumbai of its old inhabitants, including Rent Act protected tenants and tenants of the Bombay Port Trust (who are also under pressure to pay market value rents or vacate their premises). Mr. Amin further highlighted the fact that the MHADA repair budget has been reduced from Rs. 200 crore to Rs. 88 crore by the Govt, which Mr. Amin said is part of a ploy to see cessed buildings collapse and tenants moved to transit camps – another part of plan to empty Mumbai of its old inhabitants.
Mr. Amin and one Mr. Nikhil, a tenant at Tardeo, separately but forcefully pointed out that tenants have paid monetary consideration known as “pugree” (paagdi/pagdi) at the time of acquiring their tenancies. This pugree is comparable to the market value to purchase the premises. Both Mr. Nikhil and Mr. Amin highlighted the injustice of making tenants who have in essence become pseudo-owners through payment of pugree to pay market rent to their landlord. Mr. Nikhil also reminded the audience that the concept of co-operative housing societies did not exist until relatively recently. For a large part of the 20th Century obtaining tenanted premises by paying pugree was the only way for an individual to obtain property in Mumbai.
Mr. Viren Shah called on the Government to withdraw the amendment within 15 days or face a public protest and agitation. The meeting concluded with the Colaba Merchants Association giving a token of thanks to each of the speakers.