GN Bilankar moved to Dindoshi from Jogeshwari five years ago for its clean air and beautiful hillocks. The 62-year-old retired businessman gave up his printing workshop in Worli to spend time with his wife and grandchild.
But while the clean air has done wonders for his health, his fortnightly visit to the doctor has become difficult. The area has no major hospital, the closest being Hiranandani Hospital at Powai, 45 minutes away. His other options are Cooper Hospital at Vile Parle or Bhagwati Hospital at Borivli.
“There are a lot of small nursing homes and a decent private hospital nearby, but there are no big hospitals that have all the specialisations. So many people are moving here, but the basics are lacking,” said Bilankar. “The government is more focused on big developers rather than the middle-class.”
The new constituencies of Dindoshi and Jogeshwari were earlier a part of Malad. Like most suburbs, new residential towers rise high above old slums that await redevelopment. The predominantly middle-class areas now have symbols of luxury like Oberoi Mall and builders like the Rahejas making a beeline here.
While Bilankar worries about hospitals, his children worry about the lack of a good school in the area. “There are private schools, but no good state board English medium schools,” said Rakesh Revankar, his son-in-law.
For Congress candidate Rajhans Singh (52), these are the core issues. “A good hospital is a priority. The only schools around are expensive and there are absolutely no colleges. The area must be developed holistically,” he said.
A few kilometres away in Aarey Colony lives 18-year-old Ashwini Khandare. The junior college student has to walk 20 minutes through a forest to reach the main road so she can get to college. She carries a stick to battle the snakes she encounters every day. If she gets home after dark, she needs to study under the light of a lamp. There has been no electricity in her house or the 100-odd others nearby, which are part of Jogeshwari constituency, for 25 years.
“Every election, candidates promise basic amenities. But we don’t even have sanitation; the jungle is our toilet,” said Shantaram, Ashwini’s father.
The developing constituency represents two extremes: the shantytown and tribal belt and the new towers that dot the skyline. And each section has its own demands.
“The Shiv Sena has been winning here for the last decade, but the water shortage is still acute. Slum redevelopment has been stalled because of internal politics. It is time to change all that,” said Sanjay Chitre (56), the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena candidate.