Mumbai: Powai slum dwellers risk lives to use loo; Here's why

Sep 18, 2017, 14:50 IST | Laxman Singh

Every day they have to cross a dilapidated and narrow foot over bridge (FOB) simply to use the toilets across it; BMC claims the reconstruction has been delayed because of encroachments

The dilapidated bridge's railings washed away during the heavy rains on August 29. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
The dilapidated bridge's railings washed away during the heavy rains on August 29. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Imagine praying hard on the way to the toilet just because the path to it is so dangerous that you could seriously injure yourself or lose your life. But over 4,000 residents of Jay Bhim Nagar in Powai are doing just that. Every day they have to cross a dilapidated and narrow foot over bridge (FOB) simply to use the toilets across it. What makes the situation worse is that they also have to use the FOB to move out of their slum into the city.

In three years, Jay Bhim Nagar's only connecting link to the city towards Aarey Road - the FOB -over the Mithi River, has turned dangerous. The FOB was constructed over 10 years back to give proper access to residents of Jay Bhim Nagar as well as Gautam Nagar, to the nearest service road.

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No work despite contract
A resident and local activist, Pawan Pal, said three years back the civic body had awarded a contract to reconstruct the FOB but nothing happened. According to documents accessed by Pal, on December 31, 2014, a contract was awarded to Dev Engineers to reconstruct two FOBs over the Mithi River in Morarji Nagar and Jay Bhim Nagar at the cost of R1.38 crore (for both FOBs). The work was supposed to finish in one year. The civic body finished reconstructing the Morarji Nagar FOB but the one at Jay Bhim Nagar continues to be dilapidated.

Pal said, "The FOB is in an extremely dilapidated condition. During heavy rains water flows over the bridge making it very difficult for pedestrians to use it. Hundreds of people including children risk their life everyday when using the FOB. When I followed up with the matter I got to know that Bridge Department officials have written a letter to the local ward informing it about the dangerous condition of the FOB and suggested it be closed."

He added, "The internal communication between the Bridge Department and S ward (Bhandup) has revealed that the reconstruction of the FOB is pending due to non availability of space since there is encroachment (it will be widened). The encroachment happened because civic body delayed the repair work."

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'No access road'
After Pal lodged a complaint with the Prime Minister's Office about the delay in reconstruction of the FOB, the Bridge Department, in its reply (on July 21, 2017) explained that work has not started due to non-availability of an access road to the site, due to encroachment along the Mithi River. The encroachment needs to be removed by S ward.

According to the residents, BMC is to be blamed for the encroachment. A resident, Mashuk Khan, 52, alleged, "Till 2015, there was no encroachment on the site and BMC could have started work. But they delayed it and in next one year about 100 illegal slums came up."

Khan added, "Many times when children go to school their clothes get wet. During the night it is even dangerous to walk on this FOB as there is no proper safety railing."

Another resident, Santosh Jha said, "This FOB is used to go to toilets constructed on the other side of the Mithi River. Recently, during the heavy rain, a lady slipped on the steps of the FOB and injured her hand."

Pal has made an application (June 6) with the Powai Police seeking to register an FIR against the civic officials over alleged negligence by not reconstructing the FOB.

Also read: Powai resident get death threats by Shiv Sena leaders for complaining about poor sanitation

The other side
On being contacted, Assistant Municipal Commissioner of S Ward, Santosh Dhonde asked this reporter to speak to someone from the Bridge Department.

Chief Engineer of the Bridge Department, S O Kori said, "The work of reconstruction of the FOB will start soon. There is some encroachment because of which work was delayed. From October demolition of encroachments will start and within 15 days it will be complete. After it we will start work on the FOB."

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