Dharavi resident Hariram Dilliwala is on his way to Bangkok. The 65-year-old plastic recycler will be representing his locality at a symposium there. On September 30, Dilliwala will board an early morning flight for the Thai capital, where he will engage in a five-day conference on the occasion of World Habitat Day (October 1). The Dharavikar who will be travelling anywhere outside India for the first time is excited that finally someone will listen to him, as in Mumbai no one pays attention to the problems of people from his neighbourhood.
Dilliwala is the general secretary of the NGO People’s Responsible Organisation for United Dharavi (PROUD) and has been staying in Mumbai’s ‘Harlem’ for the last 32 years – incessantly pushing for redevelopment of the shantytown. “For the last 9 years we have been hearing about restructuring of Dharavi. The government has just been talking, but not even a single brick has moved. I am not at all certain whether we would be able to see the redevelopment or stay in a new home in Dharavi in this life,” said Dilliwala.
The elderly Mumbaikar will be attending the function, where spokespersons from most countries are expected to participate. According to Dilliwala, his organisation is allied with International Habitat Association, and so he is attending the seminar.
“I have great hopes from the convention. I am sure after hearing our problems people over there would try to put some pressure on the Indian government to initiate appropriate redevelopment. Currently, we have a chief minister who doesn’t pass a single file just for the sake of his image. How can we expect anything from him? I would make this and several other points at the conference,” he told MiD DAY.
Dilliwala can speak only a few words in English but is certain his sentiments would suffice. “The name Dharavi is not alien to anybody in the world anymore. So connect wouldn’t be a big issue. I can speak some English and I will have a translator who will convey my views to the audience there,” he confirmed.
Dilliwala’s travel and accommodation is being sponsored by the trust. Ahead of his trip, he said he was sad that all this while the government hasn’t done anything for his precinct. “I have researched extensively on Dharavi. I remember meeting a senior IAS officer connected with this neighbourhood. When asked him if the authorities had done a comprehensive survey of Dharavi for its redevelopment, he replied in the negative. Now they plan to redevelop sector 5, but don’t have a map for the area. At the seminar, I will reveal this to the world,” said Dilliwala.