Where it all slums up

It’s been more than a year since the city elected its corporators. Over 24 weeks,Mumbai Newsline will visit every ward (the city has 24) and assess the quality and quantity of work corporators have done. Ward H-East comprising Bandra (East),Khar (East) and Santacruz (East) has large slums,but corporators have not provided enough toilets,finds Sharwari Patwa.

Written by Sharwari Patwa | Published:May 14, 2013 3:10 am

DOTTED with slums,H-East — the ward comprising areas such as Bandra (East),Khar (East) and Santacruz (East) — is in dire need of infrastructure and amenities,especially public toilets. But till January end,the 11 corporators representing the ward have cumulatively utilised less than two-third of the ward committee funds available to them. Each corporator receives Rs 40 lakh as ward committee fund.

Besides ward committee funds — spent mostly on civil work repair and maintenance — corporators also receive substantial funds for construction,upkeep and maintenance of public toilets. A total of Rs 4.17 crore for sanitation facilities was provided to these 11 corporators. Till January end,more than Rs 1 crore remained unspent. Low fund utilisation is just one aspect of corporator performance.

The ward has more than 200 small and big slum pockets. Toilet facilities in these slums leave much to be desired — the outlay is good,but the outcome poor. “Areas such as Shantilal Compound in Khar (East),Golibar Road and Husain Tekdi are lined with slums. Most of them have poor infrastructure. Toilets are mostly broken and don’t have doors,making it difficult for women to use the facilities,” said Bharati Shetty,member of Muslim Mahila Andolan,a local NGO.

Corporators have exhausted almost 90 per cent of the councillor funds. Each corporator is allocated Rs 60 lakh. However,that doesn’t show in the amenities expected of the civic body. “Civic schools in the area don’t even have benches,” said Shetty.

“There is complete lack of will on part of civic administration and corporators to provide slum children easy access to education. With BMC unwilling to open more schools near slums,the density of students in existing ones is high,leading to deterioration in quality of education,” said Shakil Ahmed,lawyer and slum activist. According to BMC data,there are 65 schools with 25,230 students in the ward. Of these,only seven are situated in slums.

“The failure of political representatives to provide basic infrastructure to about 80 per cent of the population that lives in slums can be blamed on a strong civic official-politician-contractor nexus,” alleges Bryan Miranda,a Congress corporator from the ward. “Contractors use sub-standard material leading to poor quality and unusable infrastructure,” he said.

Cases of power and water theft have also risen,say activists. As many as 17 slum colonies do not have sewer lines. These include Golibar,Garibnagar,Naupada,Agripada,Dhobighat,Gavdevi and Nagdevi.

Despite a stringent policy,BMC has been unable to stop illegal structures mushrooming in the area. This problem is more due to political patronage,with local leaders exerting influence and delaying BMC action. Slum areas such as Garibnagar have ground-plus-two illegal structures. The proposed slum redevelopment at Manipada,Prabhat Colony,Asha Nagar,Seva Nagar,Jaku Club,Saibaba Nagar and Sivaji Nagar is expected to further increase the burden on the existing infrastructure.

“Slum residents have constructed ground-plus-four structures in some cases,leaving practically no space to add toilets. Also,many corporators from these slums have vested interests and do not look into the needs of the slum population,” said Puja Mahadeshwar,a Shiv Sena corporator,under whose watch fall Golibar,Hanuman Tekdi,Dowri Nagar,Shivaji Nagar and Pratiraksha Nagar slums.

“The crucial concern in slums is the lack of maintenance of public toilets. Due to inadequate water and few electric connections,the toilets are not up to the mark. Residents also use them to dump garbage,” said Mahadeshwar.

Other residents,too,complain of poor amenities. For residents of Vakola,flooding during monsoon is a major concern. The low lying Sunder Nagar has not seen improvement in drainage system,said Cyril Estibeiro,chairperson of Residents Welfare Association.

Unauthorised eateries block main roads in major areas. “There has been no action against such illegal stalls despite repeated complaints,” said Crompton Texeira,member of citizen forum FACTS.

sharvari.patwa@expressindia.com

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