While fast cars speed over the city’s bridges and flyovers, life strives to keep afloat underneath. You don’t have to look too far. Not one but 50 families from villages of western Vidarbha have taken shelter under the Sanpada flyover on Sion-Panvel highway for the last two months. These folks are mainly from Washim, Akola and Yavatmal districts, where lack of water and dearth of jobs has left farmers and labourers in the lurch, as they have no means of earning money this summer.
Consequently, these people have moved to Navi Mumbai in search of greener pastures. Sixty-year-old Baliram Kamble comes from Khadki village in Washim district, about 600 km from here. He and his wife Geetabai (55) seek jobs as labourers. Baliram thinks he can earn ample money to be able to pay back a loan he took for a granddaughter’s wedding last year. The marriage of another fell through a few months ago, as he didn’t have enough for dowry.“I am landless and work as a farmhand. However, because of drought in our area, I couldn’t find employment even in cities near our village. So, we had to come to Navi Mumbai to ensure regular income. I had taken a loan of Rs 50,000 from a local moneylender last year,” Baliram said.
On the money
When asked why he chose Navi Mumbai over other big cities, Baliram said availability of work and a space to stay were priorities. “We can go to Amravati and Nagpur but we do not get work there always. Even the money is quite paltry compared to what we can expect in Navi Mumbai and Mumbai. Here, we get around Rs 300 a day; in our village we would get just Rs 70 for the same amount of work. We cannot go to Mumbai, as there is no place to live,” he explained.
These villagers also blamed authorities for carrying out work on various government schemes only on paper. Many of them even expressed ignorance when asked about National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). Tulsiram Sawant (70) from Khadki village said, “What are you talking about? I have gone to various government offices as many people in our village do, but I never got any work.”
Although some of these folks are planning to return to their villages once monsoon sets in, a majority of them have decided to stay on in Navi Mumbai. Fakira Rathod (60) from Darwha village in Yavatmal district said, “I have a small plot in my village but I cannot farm there because of water scarcity. Here, I am earning over Rs 300 per day, which has made my life happy. So, I will not be going back to my village. I will set up a shanty here and stay under this flyover .”
Taking note of the plight of these villagers, guardian minister of Navi Mumbai, Ganesh Naik, has asked the local rationing office to provide them food grains for two months. “We have supplied 35 kg of rice and 10 kg of wheat to most of these people in the last few days. The remaining will get their share soon,” he told MiD DAY.