A few days ago, 25-year-old Savita Varte, a resident of Khabyachapada, Aarey Milk Colony, was attacked by a leopard while she had gone to fetch water near her house. This was the second such attack in 10 days. The forest department has set a trap in the area following the attack. But even if this leopard is caught, it will not bring an end to the attacks in the area.
Reason? It is always dark in the area after sundown as there are no streetlights. Also, the residents stay in kuccha homes and have no access to drinking water and so have to walk long distances in the dark to get to the nearest hand pump.
According to the residents, leopards are seen passing through the area during night at least four times a week. There are frequent cases of dogs being attacked by the big cats. Around 70 families have been residing in Khabyachapada since 50 years. Even after figuring under the limits of the BMC – in Ward no 47 – the area has no water connection, no electricity supply from the state, no proper sanitation and toilets, and no safety from wild animals.
Four years ago, some solar lamps were installed in the area with the funds from then Shiv Sena Corporator Sunil Prabhu, but they worked only for six months. Currently, the area falls under the jurisdiction of Shiv Sena Corporator Jitendra Valvi. “Four years ago, around 14 solar lamps were installed in our area,” said a resident. “The lights would make it easier for us to travel after sundown. However, since they stopped working no one has even bothered to check or repair them.”
The residents have approached Valvi with repeated requests to repair the lights and provide community toilets but, till date, nothing has been done. “We voted for Valvi thinking he will at least do something for our people. Being a corporator, it’s his duty to make sure that we get proper drinking water, electricity, street lamps and community toilets. However, nothing has been done,” the residents lamented.
Speaking to MiD DAY, a volunteer with ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP’ initiative Rajesh Sanap said, “In the past, the initiative has conducted awareness programmes in the area. We have been telling people to not step out in the night. The solar lamps should be repaired immediately so that further attacks can be averted and toilets should also be constructed by the BMC.’ When MiD DAY brought the solar lights issue to the notice of Valvi, he said, “I am following the matter and will see to it that lights are repaired at the earliest so that people don’t have to walk in the dark.”