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The sting that kills

mumbai Updated: Oct 02, 2009 01:47 IST
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Sushila Patil, who celebrated her 100th birthday this year, says Kurla never changes.

Patil, who was part of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, says the medical facilities are appalling and she dreads the thought of getting admitted to the only hospital in Kurla, Bhabha Hospital. Reaching the hospital takes at least 30 minutes due to poor road connectivity.

On October 13 when Patil votes for the 12th time in an Assembly poll, once again the issue will be provision of basic facilities. For many like her, this election is about a disease-free environment. Malaria has claimed 46 lives in this constituency this year.

Kurla has one of the highest death tolls during the monsoons from dengue, leptospirosis and viral fever. Bhabha is the only hospital in the area. “People have to be taken to Sion Hospital in case of major illnesses or injuries,” says Patil, who stays with her son and his family. “But reaching there takes at least an hour due to flyover construction work.”

Says Dr Jairaj Thanekar, civic executive health officer: “There is no change in the health patterns of areas in Kurla, which is most prone to any epidemic.”

Kurla is a new constituency, formed after delimitation. Politicians have done little.

In the Human Development Report, Kurla stood second last on the standard of living; 84 per cent of the population lives in slums, the highest proportion in the city. Non-existent infrastructure, mushrooming shanties, poor sanitation and deteriorating health conditions are a few of the unceasing problems dogging the area.

Rajni Mallya (41), a Kurla (East) resident, works in Bandra-Kurla Complex. Getting to work by public transport is an ordeal. “I’m forced to rely on public transport. Rickshaws refuse fares with impunity.” A skywalk or a flyover connecting west to east would be a boon for residents, she added.

Another worry is that 46 per cent of Kurla’s population lives along a nullah. A low-lying area, it borders the Mithi river that swells every monsoon and displaces many families. Adding to that the poor drainage and you have a recipe for disaster.

“Every year, we pack our belongings, ready to move if it rains heavily. Nothing changed even after the deluge,” said Aslam Khan (48), a Shastri Nagar resident.

The constituency has been reserved for the Scheduled Castes.

Slum residents have now taken their demands beyond clean water and drains to housing.

Slum redevelopment projects, they say, have made little difference to their lives and they are demanding relocation close to where they are staying, timely approvals for rehabilitation projects and basic amenities in reconstructed homes.