mid day editorial: City gaothans must be protected

Jul 31, 2018, 07:01 IST | mid-day correspondent

Residents of this century-old gaothan received a notice in March about the realignment of the road next to their houses, because the Western Railway wants to build a sixth line

mid day editorial: City gaothans must be protected

This paper ran a report yesterday about Vile Parle gaothan locals fearing a takeover of their land. Residents of this century-old gaothan received a notice in March about the realignment of the road next to their houses, because the Western Railway wants to build a sixth line.

The residents have sent their objections to the authorities and are set to meet officials. Vile Parle residents also said that their settlement should not be considered a slum.

Reports show that there is fear, which is now coalescing into anger in several gaothans. This is because inhabitants are wary of attempts to term their lands as slums, paving the way for the land to be taken away from SRA projects. This would effectively mean the end of the gaothan as a physical entity and also the erasure of a unique way of life.

Many locals live in sprawling homes of 1,000 or more feet and will not even get one-fourth their space in an SRA building. Several times, encroachments on the periphery of gaothans are being used to misguide and misrepresent to the authorities that the entire area is a slum.

Gaothans are one of the last bastions of community living. They need to be preserved. One accepts that change is inevitable in our fast paced lives, but it must come fairly and equitably for the stakeholders involved.

Balance the new with the old so that the city can retain its pockets of culture and heritage. While some movers and shakers may dismiss culture as intangible and by that very yardstick unimportant, there are some aspects that one cannot put a commercial price on. We have seen far too much friction between gaothan dwellers and authorities of late. It is time to change the narrative. Discuss, debate and then develop, so that the original inhabitants of Mumbai are not left with bitterness, anger and feelings of injustice.

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