During the July 2005 floods, central suburb, Kurla, was one of the worst affected.
Once the rescue and rehabilitation work was completed, the ensuing introspection led to some locals seeking answers about the lack of infrastructure in the area from the authorities.
Kurla-based lawyer, Jitendra Gupta, gave up his legal career to set up a citizen activists’ initiative, the ‘Kurla Improvement Intellectuals’ and over the last five years, has been in constant touch with the authorities to seek answers for their inaction.
“When Mumbai was drowning in the floods back in July 2005, Kurla was in a pitiable condition,” said Gupta, who is also actively involved with organisations such as the Mumbai Activist Committee and the Mumbai Citizen Transport Committee.
“While the Mithi River was overflowing, endangering lives of locals, the under-construction road next to the proposed Kurla subway was in a state of disrepair,” rued Gupta, who has filed several applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to seek answers from the MMRDA and other concerned authorities.
The latest demand of the group is recognition of Kurla as a heritage station. “In 1853, the first local train that reached Victoria Terminus, passed through the then Kurla fishermen’s village. The bustling Kurla Terminus now abuts the village,” said Gupta. “Even a century later, today, Kurla is very much the soul of the city, which is yet to get its due,” said Sulabha Karkera, 45, a software consultant.
From being ignored by bureaucrats, this group has been working hard to ensure that the proposed projects in their area are not overshadowed by “vote bank” politics.
“It is an irony that Kurla, which is one of the busiest hubs of the city, in reality lacks basic infrastructure,” said Karkera. “Initially, when I approached the officials individually, they never reverted,” added Karkera, claiming that the group has helped her seek answers, if not results from civic authorities.
Besides tracking the Mithi River Revival Project, the 20 members have also approached MMRDA to seek reasons for the delay in completion of the arterial Santacruz-Chembur Link Road (SCLR) and the Kurla subway. “The corporation and the railways have been indulging in a verbal tug-of-war for the last couple of years on the subway project.
More than eight lakh residents are bearing the brunt of that,” said Gupta. “But now the railways has decided to release the tender figures, which is a great achievement for an abandoned project,” added Gupta.