Former MLA and Congress leader Arif Naseem Khan points to the Krantinagar slums near the airport. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Former MLA and Congress leader Arif Naseem Khan points to the Krantinagar slums near the airport. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

With the BMC elections only days away, politicians are leaving no stone unturned to woo their vote banks. The slums surrounding the city’s international airport also house one of the biggest vote banks for former MLA and Congress leader Arif Naseem Khan. Khan, who claims there is no link between his work and BMC election, met the MMRDA chief UPS Madan, on December 6, along with the slum dwellers and gave an ultimatum about going on a massive protest if complete rehabilitation is not done by March.

Process at standstill
Pointing towards the Krantinagar slum area, which falls right on the border of airport land, Khan said, “Despite the area being on the priority list of the rehabilitation projects of MMRDA since the past decade, the process is at a standstill. Before March, each resident should be rehabilitated or they will be withdrawing their names from the project list, as their tempers are now soaring with each passing day.” mid-day reached out to MMRDA but it remained unavailable for comment.

According to the city collector’s 2010 survey, it was revealed that around 10,500 slums are yet to be rehabilitated. “Surveys are taken and forgotten. We don’t repair our houses, hoping that now we might get rehabilitated. But that never happens, so we are left in a lurch,” said Datta Patil, resident of Sandeshnagar, one of the slums on the airport land.

Why the negligence?
“Around 17,000 houses are ready, and these slums have 10,500 structures. Then why is the government not taking this issue seriously and treating it with so much negligence? They should all be considered under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project and help them have a better standard of living. Apart from that, the beautification of airport that has been on a hold because of this and security threats remain the biggest concerns for us,” said Naseem.

Meanwhile, the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) said they are facing a space crunch due to the illegal structures as the airport is tightly built in the middle of a populated space. As far as the parking and air sight capacity is concerned. Also, since illegal shanties keep multiplying by the day, keeping a track on the original slum dwellers, the illegal ones and the outsiders gets difficult.

BJP says
However, the Bhartiya Janta Party believes this is nothing but a publicity stunt, and the agitation is very strategically planned. “Irrespective of who is in power, there are certain laws and norms that are laid down. In the first 15 years of their ruling, they came up with a new reform every year and now they are agitating? Naseem Khan, through this action of his, very clearly shows how he is directly or indirectly supporting the slum lords,” said Niranjan Shetty, spokesperson of BJP. Responding to the allegation, Khan said, “I’m totally against bogus parties, who want to take advantage of the scheme, so this allegation does not hold true for me.”