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May their tribe increase

india Updated: Jun 04, 2009 01:31 IST
Vignesh Iyer
Vignesh Iyer
Hindustan Times
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They lived in poor conditions. Just like their tribe living in the hamlets of Aarey Colony in Goregaon or Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivli.

And they too felt the government was not doing enough for them.

But the tribals, mostly Mahadev Kolis, living in the Ghatipada hamlet in Mulund (W) did one thing differently — instead of waiting for help to come their way, they organised themselves into a group and took the initiative to improve their living conditions.

“We decided to come together as we felt the government was not doing enough for us,” said Ramesh More, a civic employee and president of the Ghatipada Rahivashi Vikas Mandal, which was established four years ago.
Ghatipada, home to over 350 tribal families — 60 per cent of the residents are government employees — is a 15-minute bus
ride from Mulund station.

The hamlet, which once was a cluster of mud houses, is now a chawl with many homes occupied by north Indian migrants and Gujarati families.

“People started coming here and settling down after 1985,” said Janardan Khokle (25), an unemployed tribal youth whose father was born in the hamlet.

“My mother tells me that prior to that, this place was a village with brick-and-mud houses and thatched roofs. Now most of the houses are made of concrete,” said Khokle.

The mandal decided to bring basic amenities to the hamlet — a colourful row of houses where the outer walls are often hidden behind lines laden with clothes — by working with government agencies. They started by getting toilets built in the hamlet.

“We had heard of a World Bank project to build public toilets, so we approached them,” said More, walking around the hamlet, skillfully sidestepping open gutters that run alongside the homes.

“The toilets have 24-hour water and power supply,” said More. “Each household contributed Rs 500 towards building the toilet blocks. The rest of the funding came from the World Bank.”

The mandal takes pride in revealing that the 16 toilets it helped build have water and electricity for 24 hours.

The mandal also constructed a gymnasium with residents chipping in.

Now, even the non-tribal residents of the hamlet have become members of the mandal.

Next on their agenda is the roads leading to their hamlet. “We have written to the government asking for the roads to be repaired before the rains,” said Khokle.

The mandal, however, has its detractors within the hamlet who claim it is a politically-backed body. “They work only when the election nears,” said a resident of Ghatipada who refused to name himself. “This hamlet is a major vote bank.”