Dilip Gupte (65) has lost count of the sweaty afternoons he tried to nap but spent staring at the still ceiling fan in his 1 BHK flat in Mulund.
But it’s not just the three- to four-hour power cuts every day that worry him. Gupte and his wife sunk their life savings into this house, but the fear of losing the flat because the building is on forestland haunts him. The Guptes are among 30,000 families who live with this fear, making them a strong voice among the constituency’s 3 lakh voters.
Gupte’s hopes are pinned on the ongoing case against the state government in the Supreme Court. The government claims these buildings are on forestland and therefore illegal, while residents say civic agencies should not have cleared the construction if that was the case.
If the court rules in the government’s favour, Gupte will have little option but to migrate to the US, where his children stay. “I have lived here for 40 years. I want to spend the rest of my life here,” said Gupte, who retired as marketing head of Cromptom Greaves.
Non-governmental organisations conducting voter awareness drives felt that the forestland issue could have a major impact on voter turnout on October 13. “People are extremely unhappy with the government. Many are thinking of boycotting the elections,” said Anmol Bhushan, founder of the People’s Power of Nation. Laxmidas Thakkar, from the Action for Good Governance and Networking in India, concurs, “People have been living in anxiety for over two years. We are trying our best to coax people to vote.”
Those unaffected by the dispute are fuming over the power cuts. People have been forced to adjust their daily routines as per the power supply timings.
Viral Shah (32), who runs a transport business, often calls for lunch from a restaurant though his house is just a short drive away from his office. That’s because if he does go home, he’ll have to climb seven storeys because the lift has no power supply at lunch time. “Walking up seven floors on a hot afternoon can kill anybody’s appetite,” he quipped.
Small enterprises are paying the price for the power cuts imposed on a suburb that pays the same taxes as Bandra or South Mumbai. Mulund houses 155 jewellery shops, 342 garment stores, three malls and seven multiplexes. “Property rates have dropped from Rs 8,000 to Rs 6,500 because of the power cuts,” said Shah.
The sitting BJP MLA, Sardar Tara Singh, has covered both issues in his manifesto. “People know that we raised these issues time and again with the government, but paid the price for being in the Opposition,” he said.