VIPs come and go but there is little change in the circumstances of residents of the eastern suburbs. Smoke continues to make their life miserable, added to it the deadly summer. The shanty dwellers living near the dump yard are paying exorbitant amounts for drinking water despite a court directive stating that every human being has the right to water. Besides, the Congress scion’s visit also resulted in the SPG cordoning off the area, resulting in loss of livelihood for the rag pickers.
Thousands of people live in the areas next to the dumping ground in colonies such as Baba Nagar, Rafiq Nagar, Shivaji Nagar, Bainganwadi etc. Many of these are rag pickers who are directly dependent on the dump yard for their livelihood. After the continuous fire breakouts since January, the BMC suspected sabotage and police complaints were filed twice. But no arrest has yet been made. The BMC’s M/East ward has demolished hundreds of illegal shanties in this area since then and there was speculation that the March fire was started there in retaliation.
Since the slum dwellers are illegal occupants, the BMC does not give water connections to all of them. Only a few have a legitimate connection while all the others have to buy water for hundreds of rupees everyday. This, despite a High Court order stating that every human being has the right to water and even those slum dwellers who have come after the year 2000 must get water.
Sushma Singh, a resident of Bainganwadi said, “Now that the summer is advancing, water is our biggest problem. Paani ki bahut samasya hai. We have to buy water for up to Rs 60 for one litre. The tankers come at erratic timing or may not come at all.”
Rais Ahmed, a scrap dealer from Baba Nagar said, “Few people have legitimate water connections. So, others have to set up motors to draw water from their connections and then pay them. We are dependent on them. Besides, this area is too vast and the BMC supply has very little pressure. So we have to resort to tankers.”
Despite heightened security, rag pickers told mid-day that they have been going in the dump for their work. It was only during Gandhi’s visit that the SPG took over the area and barred them out.
Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner, M/East ward said, “The work of laying pipelines is underway there. The people will all be given slum posts (common connections). The work should be done by October.”
Meanwhile, residents of Chembur briefed Rahul Gandhi about the situation while his visit was on at Deonar. “My teammates briefed him. He heard them out and then made the statement in the media criticising the administration. We are satisfied that at least he gave us a hearing. Hope he takes up the matter in the Parliament,” said Vandana Trivedi of the Mumbai Against Pollution group.
No entry for Congress Corporators
Some Congress corporators including Yogesh Bhoir, Ramashish Gupta, Jyotsna Dighe, Geeta Yadav did not get to enter the dumping ground. The SPG had cordoned off the area and only media personnel were allowed inside, leaving the corporators red-faced. They didn’t even get an audience with him.