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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Slum-dwellers in Mumbai suburbs take charge to secure basic rights

Youngsters, adults form groups to act as intermediaries between the government and citizens

mumbai Updated: Mar 19, 2018 00:29 IST
Tanushree Venkatraman
Tanushree Venkatraman
Hindustan Times
Residents of M-East ward at the ‘information centre’ set up in their slum to help fellow citizens.
Residents of M-East ward at the ‘information centre’ set up in their slum to help fellow citizens.(APNALAYA)

Running from pillar to post for getting water, gas, electricity connections for the household is a familiar experience for many. But for some in the city, this running around could cost them their day’s wages. In case of the Govandi and Mankhurd (M-East ward) in Mumbai, which includes a huge number of slums lacking basic amenities, it is the case for 51% of the people living here.

To battle this state of affairs, youngsters and adults alike have formed groups to act as intermediaries between the government and the citizens. With the help of NGO Apnalaya that has trained them in advocacy, these groups have managed to provide 400 electricity connections, 466 piped water connections, over 300 cooking gas connections and providing over 200 ration cards to families between 2015 and 2017.

Ehsan Shaikh, a 47-year-old resident of the Rafiq Nagar slums in Govandi, spends Rs1,500 for buying potable water for his family of four every month. Though he is yet to get water connection in his house, he has helped several people through the process.

“We help people in filling the forms since they are online. We undertake follow-ups with the municipal corporation and we also visit the ward to talk to the officials about the problems,” says Shaikh, who is a part of a 10-member legal water connection committee that helps people along the 12 clusters of slums in the M-East ward.

For 17-year-old Sufiyan Ansari, the training process has also given him the confidence to solve problems in his area. The resident of Shanti Nagar in Govandi says, “We needed to repair toilet blocks in the area for the longest time. It is only by writing letters, meeting the corporators and the officials, understanding that there are funds allocated for such works that we were able to complete the work.”

The grade 12 student proudly says he is now helping residents of other slums in similar problems.

The M-East ward in Mumbai ranks the lowest in Human Development Indices in the city where the average age of death is just 39 years. It is home to one of the largest dumping grounds in the country, Deonar, and grapples with many socio-economic problems. By training people in understanding their rights and enabling an interface with the government, Apnalaya is looking at improving the quality of life in the ward.

“These groups are aware of their rights and responsibilities and have the skill to bring a change through interactions with the government. The officers of M-East ward have also been helpful in listening to their pleas and improving the area,” said Arun Kumar, CEO, Apnalaya.

First Published: Mar 19, 2018 00:29 IST