For more than a decade, residents of BIT (Bombay Improvement Trust) chawls in Parel have been waiting to shift out of their rickety matchbox-sized homes into more spacious and convenient flats. But all they have got so far are repeated assurances prior to every election. The civic polls are no different.
Most buildings in the F-south ward are in precarious condition, and redevelopment is expected to be on the top of every political party’s agenda as they woo the locals. “Every other day, our pipelines break and there is sewage water all over the place,” said John Silva, a resident of BIT chawls in Parel. “Our chawls are beyond repair.”
The state of Gautam Nagar chawls in Dadar is no different. Ironically, it houses the civic body’s conservancy staff. “The plaster falls every second day. We are living on borrowed time,” said a resident who works as a sweeper at KEM hospital, requesting anonymity. “If this is the state of a BMC colony, imagine the others’ plight.”
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) owns both these chawls, and has done nothing to initiate redevelopment. It also doesn’t maintain the buildings, so residents are forced to spend from their own pockets for repairs.
The state government is no better than the BMC. The condition of the BDD (Bombay Development Department) chawls, owned, by the state’s public works department, is as poor. More than 12 years ago, it mooted the idea of redevelopment, but nothing has been done. “Our buildings have outlived their utility. There are leakages all the time. Our life is hellish. We are eagerly awaiting redevelopment,” said Raju Waghmare, spokesperson of Akhil BDD Chawl Rahivashi Mahasangh, an outfit that’s demanding transparency in the redevelopment process.
Congress corporator Sunil More agrees, but said he has done his utmost. “We have regular meetings with residents and authorities. The proposals are in the final stage,” he said. “Redevelopment takes time and residents will soon enjoy its benefits.”
Not everyone agrees. “There is no clarity in the redevelopment process and everything is done according to the dictates of the builders,” said Narayan Ghagre, CPI leader and former corporator. “Here, in Abhudaya Nagar, no development is happening as the builders have formed lobbies among residents, who are fighting with each other.”
The F-south ward, which has a majority of Maharashtrians, has been seeing a flurry of migration to the suburbs. The Shiv Sena held sway in the area for more than two decades, but it has lost much of its clout after the defection of Narayan Rane and Raj Thackeray. In the 2009 Assembly polls, Kalidas Kolambkar from the Congress won from Wadala, while the Sewri seat went to Bala Nandgaonkar of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
The area has other issues as well such as a hawker problem, the commercial use of residential premises and poor cleanliness levels. “There is tremendous apathy among residents and politicians have failed to perform,” said Bhaskar Prabhu, conveyer, Mahiti Adhikaar Manch, who plans to contest as an independent.