For over two years now, residents of Girgaum and Kalbadevi have been staring at an uncertain future: no one knows what will happen to their homes and businesses. That’s because the announcement that the Metro 3 line would pass through their neighbourhood has threatened to disrupt their lives. The residents have braced themselves for a long battle against the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), which is implementing the project.
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And in this battle, they have found support from local Shiv Sena leader Pandurang Sakpal, who helped arrange several meetings between the affected residents and MMRC officials. “Initially, different parties came forward to help us, but only the Shiv Sena followed up the issue. The other parties just distributed some pamphlets and made their regular promises. But the Shiv Sena continued to represent us and organised meetings with higher officials of the MMRC,” said Guru Kumar Shetye, a Girgaum resident.
The Project Affected Persons, or PAPs, will now be moved to alternate residences and shops in the vicinity until the project is completed, which, according to the MMRC, will be in 2021 and then provided spaces in newly constructed buildings by the corporation.
While the Metro is certainly bound to transform the way Mumbaikars travel, it will displace many families from their homes, some of them for good. It is not that these families do not recognise the benefits of the Metro, but what has upset them is rehabilitation planning.
According to the MMRC website, the 33.5-km Metro 3, connecting Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ, will affect 709 families along the line. The project will impact close to 2,500 residences and commercial units in areas like MIDC, Aarey Colony, Mahim, New Agripada, Grant Road, Shitaladevi, Mahalaxmi, Girgaum and Kalbadevi.
Just as the Shiv Sena extended a supporting hand to the residents of Girgaum and Kalbadevi, the party has also actively opposed the hacking of trees at Aarey Colony for the construction of the Metro’s car depot. The party’s election manifesto says it will not allow construction in Aarey and will ensure it remains a green zone.
The Shiv Sena has also extended support to Prabhadevi residents who have been protesting over the loss of a park, Sane Guruji Udyan, and a playground, Nardula Tank Maidan, for the duration of the Metro construction. The issue turned political after various political parties stepped in to appease the residents. Hoardings from the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) came up around the park, extending support to the residents.
“While these parties put up these hoardings, why did they allow the construction in the first place? It couldn’t be that a Metro project came up in the area without their knowledge. They should have protested even before the work began,” said Eknath Mane, a regular visitor to the park and a CPI member.
Mane, who is contesting the elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) later this month, plans to make it an election agenda. “I will fight tooth and nail to ensure we get this open area back for our kids and senior citizens,” he said.
Meanwhile, the construction of the Metro 7, connecting Dahisar East to Andheri East, will lead to displacement of more people. Close to 250 structures are set to be acquired for the project and the people who will be affected have been guaranteed rehabilitation in MMRDA-owned buildings in Oshiwara.
However, people owning commercial units have expressed their unhappiness with the plan as moving to the new building could mean the end of their businesses. For many of them who run engineering units, there is hardly any space to set up commercial spaces. Further, it will also inconvenience them in terms of transporting their raw materials and finished goods. But unlike the Metro 3-affected people, they have found very little support from political parties in their struggle against the project.
“The MMRDA has asked us to vacate our spaces but they have given us no choice with regard to our new location. We have been fighting with the MMRDA for over 10 years now. They earlier wanted us to vacate to allow the widening of the Western Express Highway. Even then they were providing us the same building for resettlement. In all these years, we have found support only from the Shiv Sena, but even that is only intermittent. Our own local corporator has never come to our aid as he doesn’t consider us his vote bank,” said a Goregaon resident.
When asked about his voting preference for the civic polls, he said he would press ‘None of the Above (NOTA)’.
While the MMRDA aims to complete the 16.5-km Metro 7 by 2019, it has also begun work on Metro 2B and 4, expected to be completed by 2021.