The slum-dwellers of Sanjay Gandhi Nagar, Cuffe Parade, with the help and leadership of the Nivara Hakk Suraksha Samiti (NHSS), had to wage a protracted and bitter fight against the demolition of, and eviction from, their settlement. The government, finally, conceded to their demands and provided alternative land at Goregaon. Sangharsh Nagar is what they decided to call their housing colony (sangharsh meaning 'to fight').
As architects and active members of the NHSS, our proximity to the people was a crucial factor in devising relevant housing models for their rehabilitation. Detailed discussions, presentations and models formed the basis of the design.
As the site was once a quarry, with excavations to depths of 10 to 12 metres, it had to be filled and dressed. The Municipality helped by dumping garbage and debris. First, the people constructed a common toilet and then tried to obtain a water connection.
Housing programme: It was decided that activists connected with the NHSS and the elected representatives of Sangharsh Nagar take the lead in these matters and monitor the housing programme. Institutional loans and donations to the society were not to be accepted as these tend to become a burden and a tool for further oppression, exploitation and interference. It was also decided that they build their own houses like they built their slum with individual, financial arrangements.
We prepared a layout plan outlining the position of common toilets, water taps, community centre, society office, accesses and open spaces.
Planning principles: The plan proposes plots larger than the plinth area of every house in order to create a compulsory, open-to-sky space, a place to cook, sit out, wash clothes and sleep. Common, open spaces are along the accesses, forming chowks for gettogethers and spaces for the children to play. Since every house was to be built and extended according to the individual's means, subsequent repairs and maintenance too became simple without dependence on professional help, nor linked to the status or consent of neighbours. An open space in the north, along the hill, acted as a buffer and protected the houses from possible landslides. A fairly large part is to be used for common facilities such as toilets and water taps. Also, extensive tree plantation is planned. A large, common space required for get-togethers, festivals and children to play is provided along with the welfare centre.Promoter: Nivara Hakk Suraksha Samiti.