Located on the edge of a tiny stream full of sewage in Mankhurd, 138-B transit camp will collapse this monsoon, its residents predict. Living in the transit camp since 2000, with the promise of rehabilitation, residents of about 1,200 hutments have three defunct toilet blocks, which has forced men and children to defecate in the open, violating their basic right to proper sanitation. The women still use the defunct toilet block — a dog has made one of the cubicles its home.
Prakash Kumbhar looks across the road at MMRDA-constructed buildings that now house rehabilitated people. In 2000, NGO Sparc had relocated his family from Azad Maidan to Mankhurd, promising to shift them in a building once it is constructed. Several other families were moved from Nagpada, Parel and Azad Maidan. In 2013, the NGO was blacklisted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) from constructing toilets. While he awaits rehabilitation for the past 16 years, Kumbhar has been visiting various government officials in the hope of at least getting clean water and sanitation in the transit camp, but in vain.
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With no water or electricity in the toilet, and its walls crumbling, occupants buy water at Rs 20 per can, and use it to flush toilets. Last year, the tin shed fell off during rains. The clogged toilets are never cleaned as there is no civic worker appointed for it and there is no septic tank. In six months or so, when the stench is unbearable, occupants pool money to get it cleaned. With broken cubicles, walls falling apart, there is little they can do.
Says Reshma Ram Shignath (35), “There is no door. We can’t defecate in the open, so at night we take someone along to guard the entry. It is like using four walls as a toilet where there is no drainage.”
The open defecation by children has made them prone to several infections. Geeta Moreyan’s five children, aged 4 to 14 years, defecate along the edge of the stream where the occupants also throw all the garbage.
A recent notification under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan states that government or local governing bodies must provide sanitation services irrespective of land ownership. The residents have approached slum sanitation program running under the civic body and respective ward officer. Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner for M-East Ward (Mankhurd, Chembur), said, “Since it is a transit camp, MCGM cannot provide a toilet. If they shift, the investment will be wasted. One toilet block takes over Rs 30 lakhs and about six months for construction.” He added that the responsibility for sanitation falls on the body that moved these people. “It is also not a notified slum,” Dighavkar said.
A senior official from MMRDA’s social development cell admitted that the occupants of 138-B transit camp have visited their office for rehabilitation. “MMRDA appointed Sparc to rehabilitate people who have been affected by Mumbai Urban Transport Project. The people from that camp who approached us did not have sufficient documents to prove they lived at the location where MUTP projects-affected residents stay. That’s why we cannot rehabilitate them,” the official said. Also, MMRDA is only concerned with infrastructure projects and providing sanitation facilities does not come under its purview.
As proof, Kumbhar only has a picture, clicked in 2000, of his mother on stage with then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh receiving an enlarged key as token of another house. “We are now planning to complain against Sparc.”