Malvika Gadekar (23) feels lucky to stay in Khar. The most “happening places” — nightclubs, cafés, restaurants and the Linking Road shopping hub — are just 10 minutes away from her home on 17th Road. Never mind that her rickshaw takes an hour and runs up a tab of Rs 60 to cover the distance from Bandra’s Waterfield Road that should have taken her 10 minutes and cost Rs 15.
Malvika is one of the 2,97,074 voters in Bandra (West) constituency, which includes tony Pali Hill, the koliwadas of Khar Danda and middle-class Santacruz.
Malvika’s mother, Urvashi (48), though, can’t stop fretting about the traffic, which has forced her to change her market shopping timings from evening to morning. She even refrained from buying a car because of the congestion.
“The main problem is the unprecedented construction in the area — major redevelopment of buildings — which has not been supported by adequate infrastructure,” said Urvashi, with husband Nitin (55) nodding in agreement.
Urvashi pointed out that the never-ending construction forces her to clean the house at least twice a day. “The dust is unbelievable. Most houses have at least one person with respiratory problems. The stagnant water at the building sites helps spread malaria,” she said.
Nitin, who grew up in what is today one of Mumbai’s most sought after addresses, is not happy either. He remembers the days where the area was quiet and quaint.
“Things have worsened in the last five years. Many buildings have exceeded the area allowed for redevelopment. There is no policy that links infrastructure to the increase in vehicular population,” he said.
Neil Pareira (48), a resident of the predominantly Christian Pali gaothan in Bandra (West), owns a 150-year-old teak bungalow.
He agreed that redevelopment was the crux of all problems in the constituency.
“All bungalows are getting converted into high-rises. With affluent people becoming our neighbours, the cost of living automatically rises. To get people for housework at affordable rates is difficult and vegetables cost four times the regular prices,” said Pareira. He said that the congestion was such that there was no place even for a fire engine to manoeuvre.
Pareira is part of a group fighting for heritage status for gaothans so that the culture and flavour of such villages remains intact.
“We want Bandra to be what it was and not be swallowed by land sharks that flout development rules to make money,” he said.
But sitting MLA Baba Siddiqui, of the Congress, is unmoved. “Look at the good things I have done. I put paver blocks everywhere,” he said.
His opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Ashish Shelar, a corporator from Khar, said development should be inclusive.
“We have to have a separate policy that will deal with redevelopment in-depth and look at problems of all communities,” he said.