Mumbai: Mahul residents plagued by skin infections, hair loss and TB, see hope
In a strong high court order, Mahul residents, plagued by skin infections, hair loss, urinary infections and TB, see hope
With their long legal battle coming to an end, the relief was visible on the faces of residents living at Mahul on Tuesday. The Bombay High Court has directed the civic body to relocate them at the earliest. While some families are apprehensive about where the alternative accommodation maybe, others who have suffered horrific ailments since they moved to Mahul feel any other location will be a better option.
Skin infections, hair loss and urinary tract infections are common complaints of the residents of the MHADA colony at Mahul and Ambapada. Narendra Singh, 54, has to wear a full-sleeved shirt every time he steps out, to conceal the extent of his skin infection. "My family moved to Mahul from Marol pipeline two-and-a-half years ago. Within a couple of days, I noticed these marks that looked like mosquito-bites. They started to spread and soon I started shedding skin," he said. Like Singh, his son, too, developed a similar infection, which vanished when he moved to Pune to study.
Narendra Singh's body is covered in peeling skin; (right) Meherunissa has an infection that makes her skin itchy with a burning sensation
Singh also lost his 28-year-old daughter to breast cancer in May 2018 and he believes she fell sick only after they moved to Mahul. He said in June this year, his father died of cancer and he, too, developed symptoms only after moving to Mahul. After hearing the judgment, Singh beamed, saying, "We are really happy and are ready to move anywhere else today itself if they allow us to. All I want is a healthy environment for my family," he said.
Meherunnisa Shah Mohammed Khan, 50, is tired of her persistent skin infections that do not respond even to medication. "For the past year, I have had this constant itching and burning sensation. We buy filtered water for drinking purposes but cannot afford to use that for bathing. I have four grandkids and I want a healthier life for them. I hope they move us to a better place soon," she said.
Maya Goswami with her son. She lost her husband to cancer last year
Many residents would rather live on the footpath than in the houses allotted to them at the PAP colony. Maya Goswami, 45, says she spent the better part of the last three years running to the hospital either for her husband or her two daughters. She claimed that her husband, Santosh, was perfectly healthy before he came here.
"Months after we shifted, he started getting mouth ulcers and was diagnosed with mouth cancer. He died in May last year and I have to take care of my family. We are desperate to move out. We don't want any money and if the government gives us some land we're even happy to make our own house. Any place is better than this hell," she said. Goswami said her elder daughter, Anjana, is suffering from tuberculosis and younger daughter suffered from temporary paralysis.
Residents also talk of lack of facilities and limited access to transportation in the area. They have voiced their concerns over lack of hospitals or good schools nearby and non-availability of jobs in the area.
The HC ruling
The Bombay High Court's order on September 23 states that no one can be rehabilitated to Mahul as part of slum rehabilitation and those who are currently living there will have to be accommodated elsewhere. The order further stated that until alternative accommodation is made available, the civic body or the state government will have to pay residents Rs 15,000 per month as transit rent and a security deposit of Rs 45,000 within the next 12 weeks.
When contacted, a senior civic official said that they will appeal to the Supreme Court against the order. "The order has only focused on the observations made in the 2015 National Green Tribunal order and hasn't looked at the work we have done in the area after that. We will try to get a stay on the high court order before we figure out how to implement the order."
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