When Mumbai’s first ever skywalk opened in Bandra (East) in June 2008, it made big news. For once, the low-key locality seemed to have upstaged Bandra (West), its tony neighbour.
The skywalk was expected to make the rest of the suburb more accessible to Bandra (East) and Bandra-Kurla Complex. But residents said the skywalk hasn’t made that much of a difference.
“It is of no use to Behrampada, Kala Nagar or MIG Colony. It makes the commute to the railway station longer; few people use it,” said PK Ravindranath (80), a long-time resident of Patrakar Colony. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, which built the skywalk, expected at least 80,000 people to use it every day.
The fact that the skywalk is not used as much as expected is probably the only common thread across Bandra (East) as an electoral constituency. Otherwise, each locality is dominated by a different religious or socio-economic group. From the predominantly Muslim Behrampada to the Maharashtrian-Hindu Kala Nagar-MIG Colony to the North Indian Bharat Nagar, Bandra (East) is like a microcosm of Mumbai itself.
And each locality has its own set of issues waiting to be addressed.
Residents of Government Colony near MIG Club — all state employees — are angry that they don’t figure in the colony’s redevelopment plan and would be asked, after they retire, to vacate the flats they have been living in for decades.
“All of Government Colony boycotted the Lok Sabha elections. But we realised that won’t get us anywhere. We aren’t asking for free houses. We offered to bear construction costs of our houses when the colony was redeveloped, but the proposal isn’t getting government approval," said Sunil Rawde (48), who has been living in the colony for 19 years. Apart from that, his only grouse is that essential commodities’ prices are rising fast.
Just across the highway, in Behrampada, housing is on the minds of the residents too. But in a different way. “Housing conditions, in terms of water supply and sanitation, are horrible. There are also discrepancies in the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) schemes that are run here. Very few structures actually qualify for redevelopment under the SRA and the few that do are unfairly managed. Often, actual residents of a slum are left homeless,” said P Sarathchandra (45), of the Committee for the Right to Housing in Behrampada.
“For us, nothing has changed in the last five years. Water and sanitation issues are unsolved," said Sameena Dahudwala (40), president of the Jai Maharashtra Mahila Mandal in Behrampada. Her group of women was responsible for getting a civic garbage van to do the rounds of the locality two years ago.
In Kala Nagar, road conditions and sanitation are not top-of-mind. It’s the Mithi river clean-up — the July 26, 2005, flood was blamed largely on the river breaking its banks — that is paramount. Many ground-floor houses were submerged in the deluge. “I lost over 1,000 books in the flood. If the river isn’t cleaned up, the situation could get worse,” said a worried Ravindranath.