A peaceful 24-day-long protest by residents of Kannamwar Nagar II area of Vikhroli against demolition of their slum threatened to turn violent on Monday after a 15-month boy drowned in a ditch in the area. The ditch was among the many reportedly dug by civic authorities during the demolition drive last month.
At around 8am on Monday, the toddler who was playing outside his shanty, fell in the pit and before anyone could notice, drowned. "To ensure that slums don't come up again, the civic authorities dug pits in the area. Water collected in the pits, and they have now become a hazard," said Vasant Mohite, a local resident. "They should have barricaded the area instead of digging pits."
The incident fuelled outrage among the locals as it came just a day after a 30-year-old local resident attempted suicide, purportedly disturbed after losing his home to the demolition drive. Ankush Patil, a labourer, allegedly consumed poison on Sunday. "Ankush was under tremendous stress since November 17, when our slum was demolished," his wife Nita told HT. "We have two children who have not been able to go to school. He was scared we would not be able to afford meals." Patil is currently recuperating at the Intensive Care Unit, but his condition is said to be critical.
After Monday's incident, a police force was deployed outside the hospital where Patil was admitted to prevent any trouble.
Senior inspector of Vikhroli police station R Javkar said that an Accidental Death Report (ADR) had been made in the toddler's case. No case has been registered against anyone. "The pits were dug up in the area as it was a forest land and they [civic officials] wanted mangroves to grow again," Javkar said.
Between November 16 and 18, the BMC demolished 1,598 slums and other unauthorised structures in Buddhachaya Nagar, at Kannamwar Nagar. Thereafter, the displaced families put up makeshift shanties in the same area. They also went on a symbolic protest that they claim was attended by social activist Medha Patkar. The locals are seeking action against the collector's office for the trauma caused to them.