The city’s koliwadas (fishing villages) are finally set to get a fair deal with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis ordering the BMC to recognise the special character of these villages after the civic body had tagged them as ‘slum clusters’ in the controversial draft of the development plan (DP).
Fadnavis has also said the koliwadas be given the right to self-develop, a long-standing demand made by members of the community as well as urban planners.
Speaking at the Versova Mahotsav last week, the chief minister specifically asked BMC chief Ajoy Mehta to include the koliwadas in the DP and recognise their special character. “It was because of the kolis (fishing community) that Mumbai got its name, its history and identity. But there has been a suspicion that Mumbai’s DP was seeking to erase their identity. Let me say, no one can push the koli community out of the city,” said Fadnavis, adding that the DP should record their special contribution to the city by categorising them separately.
Fadnavis’ statement assumes greater significance, especially after the slum rehabilitation authority’s (SRA) move to declare parts of the Worli koliwada as a slum. The move had raised fears that other koliwadas in the city would also face the same fate, ultimately paving way for the character of these villages to be destroyed.
A civic official, on condition of anonymity, said the BMC would be following Fadnavis’ orders. “We had rectified our mistakes to a large extent in marking koliwadas. But this statement is crucial as it paves way for a policy-level change in the way we look at koliwadas.”