Villagers from the Gorai-Manori-Uttan belt with activists from various groups gathered at the Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) Tuesday, to protest against the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s (MMRDA) development plan for the villages.
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The protesters handed over a letter to Dr Naresh Gite, Commissioner of MBMC, stating that they did not want to be under the jurisdiction of the planning body. The MMRDA was appointed the special planning authority for the area in 2007.
Earlier, the villages of Dongri, Tarodi, Pali, Chowk and Uttan were part of the MBMC, while Culvem, Gorai and Manori were a part of the BMC. The villagers are unhappy with the MMRDA, claiming that the body is only interested in turning their villages into tourism zones and does not care for the locals.
“The MMRDA will slaughter us. Integrate us back into the municipal corporations, since we have our elected representatives there. We have nobody to speak for us in the MMRDA. They only want our ponds and mountains,” complained Lourdes D’Souza, secretary of Dharavi Beth Bachao Samiti (DBBS), one of the groups that has been fighting for the fishermen’s rights in the area.
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Accepting the letter, Gite promised to forward it to the Chief Minister.
“The letter will be sent to the Urban Development Ministry of the state government,” he said. Apart from the DBBS, representatives of Gorai Macchimar Sahakari Sanstha Limited, Uttan Koli Samaj, Our Lady of Sea Church among others were present at the protest. The villagers are also strongly opposed to the proposed coastal road to Virar.
“If the road comes up, we will lose our livelihood and our homes. The road has been proposed in the area where we dry our fish and pull in our boats. This will directly affect our fishing business. The draft plan has no mention of rehabilitation for us,” said Sister Isabelle, a resident of Gorai.
The residents said that the BMC too had neglected them, but they still felt better off under its jurisdiction.
“Our village lacks many basic amenities. We do not even have a college, and have to travel far-off places such as Borivli and Bandra to study. The MMRDA does not care to develop our villages for our betterment. They just want to develop them for tourists. Shouldn’t the locals be the first preference?” said Andrea Chunnekar, a BCom second year student and resident of the area.