'We change our sleeping spots based on the tide', say Bandra Bandstand locals
Packed eight people per shanty along the shore, Bandra slum residents forced during lockdown to make the perilous rocks of Bandstand their beds each night
Since the lockdown began, nearly 750 people staying in around 125 shanties at Bandra Bandstand, have spent every night sleeping on or near the rocks outside their houses until the tide comes in, forcing them to crowd back inside. On an average, there are eight members in a shanty at Ganesh Nagar, along the seashore.
Unable to stay together in their small dwellings, they have been forced to spend time near or on the rocks by the sea, till the tide rises, in an attempt at social distancing. The people have been residing in the area since 1986 and have Aadhaar, ration and PAN cards etc. They have been getting SMS alerts to pay their electricity bills. They want the government to give them concessions regarding electricity, and many of the migrants there want to go back home to Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, etc.
Until the tide comes in
The secretary of Ganesh Nagar Rahiwasi Sangh, Jeetendra Pareva said, "There was no space crunch in these houses as the working members would be out for most of the day. But due to the lockdown, the dwellings are overcrowded. Now a few members sleep inside the house and others come out to sleep on the rocks. We do this at night and in the afternoon. We change our sleeping locations as per the high tide. The water reaches right upto our door steps during high tide. We have learnt to sleep according to it," said Pareva.
Residents say only the men sleep outside on or near the rocks. Pics/Sameer Markande
Most of the residents are people who work as gardeners, drivers, maids, etc in the nearby bungalows of film stars. However, they claim neither the film stars nor the government have come forward to help them till date.
The locals also claim they have to defecate in the open as there is no public toilet facility in the area except for one meant for tourists, which is air-conditioned, and charges R10.
"It becomes tough for us to answer nature's call during the rainy season, as the rocks become slippery and many people lose their balance and get hurt. Fortunately none of us have fallen into the sea and drowned. Many political leaders have promised us toilets but nothing has been done. Who will pay R10 to use an AC toilet when we don't have ACs even at home?" asked Pareva.
Chose safety over money
The residents claimed that they have stopped working due to the lockdown, but their employees in the bungalows have been trying their best to lure them back. "These people have been offering us huge sums of money to resume work. A few of us were tempted as the offers were lucrative. But we had a meeting. But we conducted a meeting with all the residents and dissuaded everybody from going anywhere during the lockdown," said Ganga Bhagwat Singh, the president of Ganesh Nagar Rahiwasi Sangh.
The residents of hutments at Bandstand are forced to spend nights sleeping near or on the rocks until the tide comes in, to avoid overcrowding in their tiny houses
"Thankfully there is not a single case of COVID-19 in this slum. If someone goes out to work and gets infected, we could all get infected. So everyone got convinced and rejected the offers. We are also not allowing any outsider to enter our dwellings," added Singh.
Most of the occupants of these overcrowded dwellings are from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and said they want to go to their homes in Patna, Allahabad, Jaunpur, etc.
Jobless with no money
Another reason they spend time on the rocks, is that they don't have television. "After the lockdown, the validity of cable connections expired in nearly 90 per cent houses in this slum. So the youngsters are forced to come out in the open for better network for their smart phones."
"We requested the service provider to resume the service but he said it will be possible after online payment. So we are helpless regarding this as well. Also, most of us are jobless so how can we pay for cable TV?" Pareva added. So far they haven't had a problem with food. Residents claimed former MLA Baba Siddiqui and Corporator Asif Zakaria have been giving them rations and packed food. Special arrangement for food has also been made by the duo for those observing roza in the holy month of Ramadan.
With the government allowing travel between states, the migrants in the shanties are hopeful of going back home.
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