Located right next to the Bhandup pipeline which supplies millions of litres of water to the city is the thirsty Adivasi hamlet of Peru Baug Pada, whose only source of water this summer is from dilapidated wells with greenish mossy water. The rehabilitation of nearly 200 Adivasi families living inside the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) campus has been stalled for the past five years for want of valid documents.
Most of these adivasis don’t have valid address proof since IIT never allowed them any water or electric connection. The MMRDA, which is going to rehabilitate them, requires such documents and is not ready to budge without it. The Adivasis now fear another monsoon in this hamlet where at least two to four people die every year due to waterborne diseases.
Although a part of the IIT-B campus, these Adivasis claim they have been staying here before the land was acquired and the IIT was formed in 1959. After the IIT was formed, these Adivasis got shunted to one corner, and according to them they have never been given any alternative accommodation.
The Pada and the adjacent Paspoli village have no facilities like drinking water, electricity, pucca roads or sewerage. The nearest secondary school is in Kanjurmarg, and the nearest civic hospital is in Ghatkopar.
Their lives are largely centred around Powai Lake where they do fishing. “But that too is becoming dangerous since there are increasing instances of crocodile attacks,” said Shivram Sutar, an Adivasi, who had lost his brother to one such attack.
In 1990, the Election Commission conducted a survey and issued them voter ID cards. Thus, the elders of this hamlet have voter IDs but the next generation, which makes up about 70 per cent of the population, does not.
When the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road had to be constructed, a portion of the IIT’s land had to be given up for it. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between IIT and MMRDA, which was constructing the road. MMRDA agreed to rehabilitate the Adivasis of Paspoli village, which consists of Peru Baug Pada. The MMRDA then approached the collector’s office asking for a fresh survey. The surveyors then pointed out that the number of houses in Peru Baug had almost doubled and hence refused to provide accommodation to all of them. But the Adivasis claim that they have not allowed any new migrants to settle here and it is only their own families which have expanded. Only people who have been living here before January 2000 will be eligible for rehabilitation. But this means that only 30 per cent of the families will be rehabilitated. This has the Adivasis worried because they claim they don’t have any documents to prove they have been residing here before 2000.
“We conducted a survey where 127 of the 300 families of Paspoli allowed us rehab. Later those from Peru Baug were also ready for it but the consultant NGO backed out saying the numbers have multiplied upto 400. We had to request the collector. We now have decided to have a cut-off date of January 2000 and only those who have been staying here before that will be rehabilitated,” said a senior MMRDA official in-charge of rehabilitation.