MUMBAI/ Reordering the old city 1 – the impossible mission of land acquisition
Reordering the old city 1
Everyone is against the trust – the impossible mission of land acquisition in Mumbai sanitary regeneration process (1900-1920)
As declared in an official history paper of the plague “Filth, overcrowding, bad ventilation and bad drainage are the fostering causes of the plague. “( Nathan , 1897) Slums would be a more precise description of Bombay at that time and the plague outbreak confronted the colonial government with the problem of sanitary disorder. Since then, the sanitary regeneration has been a discourse of urban development in the city and was the mission of the Bombay Improvement Trust (BIT) when it established in the 1989.
One of the primary objectives of the trust was to carry out “slum clearance” in areas considered as insanitary by the Municipal Commissioners. This action required the control of land and the trust has been empowered by the English court to take possession of land either by agreement or by compulsory acquisition. However, the trust has encountered tremendous obstacles with different parties trying to claim an interest in the process, “ in every detail connected with the acquisition of properties wearisome unavoidable and unexpected delay is caused.”( Nathan , 1897) This setback led the trust to shift the focus from old city to the suburb land in the north in hope to control the land.
The first issue appeared is the lack of clarity of title to land. The tate- Dickinson survey of 1811-1828 and the Laughton Survey of 1965- 1972 resulted in two sets of street index. There were no clear titles to any piece of property as different forms of tenure during industrialization and the shift of colonial authorities.
Another challenge the trust encountered was the debate over true value of market price. There were debates between the trust and the landowner regarding the compensation basis of the acquired land. At first, the trust would compensate for the cost and market price of the existing building. Later on, it was requested to consider the future yield of the site as well and in 1907, it came to an agreement of using “the Plotting Scheme” as the basis. Despite a mutual recognized compensation basis, there were still controversies over the value of market price, which even the English court found it hard to clarify for the trust.
Upholding the notion of public interest, the trust faced drastic opposition from all parties in taking control of land. As a colonial-authorized body, Indian criticized the BIT for undermining the locals and conflicts provoked when the trust attempted to acquire religious worship land. As for the British, self interest was more important than the well- being of a colonial state, rather then assisting the trust, the English court chose to backed the Indian in their legal disputes with the trust as a way to protect their property. Being put in a powerless position, the trust had its every decisions being challenged by the 1920s which taking control of mumbai land was indeed a mission impossible.
R.Nathan, The plague in Inida, 1896, 1897, I, p.42