When Parasram Tagad, 66, a farmer from Washim, came to Navi Mumbai in search of livelihood in 2012, he hadn’t imagined the temporary shelter he took under the Turbhe flyover will become his home for years to come.
Tagad is not the only one. Tired of battling drought, poor yield and accumulating loan, several farmers and labourers from Marathwada and western Vidarbha have moved to the city over the past five years. These farmers, just like Tagad, take up menial jobs from September to June to sustain their stay in their villages during the monsoon, when staying under a flyover is almost impossible. Unable to afford an accommodation, they stay under the flyovers in Navi Mumbai and Kalyan.
Kamalabai Jharedar, 46, from Jintur of Parbhani, finds life under the Nerul flyover more comfortable than her four-room home in her native village. Scrap collection work helps the farm labourer earn enough to take care of her 15-year old son and 48-year-old husband, who is suffering from a finger ailment. “How can we survive in our village without any work? Here, we can earn at least Rs200 a day,” said Jharedar.
Influx of distressed farmers from Marathwada, Vidarbha and Khandesh regions is expected after Gudi Padwa, the Marathi New Year, on April 8.The APMC markets and unskilled labour requirement help the migrants. A case in point could be Kailash Gajbhar, 26, who studied till Class 12. Unemployment and drought forced him to migrate to Navi Mumbai. Kailash’s mother Sumitrabai, who is physically challenged, had no option but to accompany him, as there is no one to look after her in Kolgaon. He now segregates onions at the APMC market in Vashi.
Mahadev Aatkar, 26, who lost his leg in a train accident, and now lives under the Turbhe flyover, says the political leaders visit drought-hit villages only to get publicity. “Many leaders visited us in 2012 and gave us packets of food grains. They ensured the event was covered well in the media. It was just a publicity stunt. None of them bothered to visit us again,” Aatkar said. These migrants say they are not happy living in miserable conditions, but have no other way out.
Kailash and Mahadev want better irrigation facilities in their area, so they can handle poor rainfall. “If proper irrigation facilities are available, we can get back to farming. Why will we come here again then,” asked Tagad.