Even as contesting politicians return this year with grand promises of better infrastructure and facilities, tribals in Aarey Milk Colony fight a daily struggle for even the most essential amenities, such as public toilets, adequate medical care, and even basic rights such as water and electricity supply.
The interior roads along the tribal settlements have not been made properly, and are difficult to navigate in the rains and the dark
On Monday, mid-day visited the adivasi padas and found that a majority of them did not have adequate facilities, and some, like Vanichapada and Khadakpada lacked footpaths, proper internal roads and electricity.
The toilets are in an equally sorry condition, forcing residents to go out in the open to answer nature's call
Aarey Milk Colony is spread over 12 square kilometres, and has 28 adivasi padas with over 8,000 tribal voters who have resided there for over 100 years. In fact, one of the Vanichapada tribals, Chandu Jadhav even has land records going as far back as 1861. However, these communities have long gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to development and the provision of facilities.
Jadhav told mid-day, “Many political parties make big promises ahead of elections, but the tribal settlements in Aarey, which is very much in Mumbai, lack basic facilities like a proper hospital, lighting and fresh drinking water.” Even adequate medical care can be hard to come by, and tribal residents often have to travel quite a bit to find a proper hospital.
“The most annoying thing is Aarey Hospital (run by Aarey Dairy for the tribal population) lacks proper medical facilities and doctors are never present there, because of which we have to travel more than 8 km to reach a government hospital,” said a Vanichapada resident on condition of anonymity, adding, “and even the illegal slums here have legal water and electricity connections, but we lack the same facilities.”
It should be noted that there are 30,000 slum dwellings in Aarey Colony, more than the number of tribal houses. The lack of public toilets and streetlights, is another major issue that plagues the tribal community living in the Colony. “Everyone is aware that leopards are frequently sighted here, but we still don’t have proper lights.
Some solar lights were installed two years ago, but they have stopped working as well. The toilets are dilapidated and hence people have to go out in the open to answer nature’s call, increasing the chances of man-animal conflict,” said another tribal resident. Aarey Milk Colony comes under the jurisdiction of the Jogeshwari East assembly segment, and at present, the sitting MLA is Shiv Sena’s Ravindra Waikar.
Waikar is contesting the election again, and is fighting against Congress candidate Rajesh Sharma, NCP candidate Dinkar Tawde , BJP candidate Ujwala Modak and MNS candidate Bhalchandra Ambure. There are 2,83,536 voters in this constituency, and 51.64 per cent had turned out to cast their votes during the last assembly elections.