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G: Slums abound amid construction

Where Sena-MNS politicsscores over civic issues.

Written by MANASI PHADKE | Mumbai | February 6, 2012 3:09:49 am

A cluster of newly-constructed plush high rises,old housing colonies,chawls and Dharavi slums,the G-North ward is known more for its politics than its civic issues.

Comprising areas such as Dadar West,Shivaji Park,Mahim,Matunga West and Dharavi,the ward,which predominantly consists of Marathi voters,is the home turf of the ruling Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

Although several residents feel that the political face-off between the Shiv Sena and the MNS does more good than harm,basic issues with the ward such as traffic congestion,hawking,bad waste management and water contamination in Dharavi slums still prevail.

“Both try hard to prove to us that they are working for us,in the end benefiting citizens. Irrespective of who wins the election,the ward will benefit and will be largely peaceful as it is near Sena Bhavan and Raj Thackeray’s residence,” 23-year-old Aatish Shah,a resident of Shivaji Park,said.

“But the traffic congestion in Dadar has gone from bad to worse though,” Shah conceded.

Traffic congestion on the Tilak Bridge right up to the Sena Bhavan,parts of Senapati Bapat Marg and LJ Road,which runs from Sena Bhavan to Mahim,has increased due to new high rises and a growing number of commercial establishments. The traffic near Dadar station has also deteriorated due to the presence of several hawkers,vegetable vendors and an increase in the crowds due to the growing number of offices in the surrounding areas.

“The traffic congestion is a major problem. There are a lot of borewells in Mahim,so a lot of tankers are found haphazardly parked on the roads,leading to increase in congestion,” civic activist Bulu Saldanha said.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has on several occasions issued notices to housing societies in Mahim against selling of borewell water,meant for private use,to tanker companies,but the practice still continues.

“The ward also has signals that are extremely chaotic and prone to accidents such as the crossing at the Sena Bhavan-Shivaji Park junction and the Plaza circle junction,” Ajit Pandit,a Shiv Sena corporator,said. “There was a proposal for constructing underpasses at four such signals in the ward about eight-10 years ago,but the proposal never took off after local shopkeepers protested and some political parties got involved.”

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) had proposed to build a skywalk in Mahim West to give respite to pedestrians from hawker-infested pavements,but residents and citizen activists,in 2009,opposed the proposal,saying it was not a logical solution to the problem.

Citizens also talk about the need for better roads connecting the by-lanes of the ward and more open spaces.

In the last five years,citizen activists have managed to salvage the largest open space in the ward — the Shivaji Park. The ground,situated near schools and medical clinics and surrounded by plush upper middle-class residences,was declared a silence zone after years of being used for political and religious functions.

“Shivaji Park residents have got some relief since the ground was declared a silence zone. Noise levels have gone down and the quality of life has improved,but it needs to be implemented more strictly,” Congress corporator Meena Desai said.

The ward also includes Dharavi,which houses the most prominent slum areas of Mumbai. According to 2001 census the slum population of the ward,concentrated in Dharavi,constitutes 55.8 per cent of the total population of the G North ward.

The problems faced by residents of Dharavi include contaminated water supply,improper drainage and frequent flooding in nallahs.

For years,Dharavi has been awaiting a makeover by the state government. The government has recently issued a notification to enable Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) or any other public authority to start the much-delayed Rs 15,000 crore Dharavi Redevelopment Project.

“In fact,we haven’t been able to do much work in Dharavi because we don’t have a base to work on. The government’s plans about Dharavi keep on changing every now and then,” activist Saldanha said.

G North has 11 wards,with five Congress corporators,four Shiv Sena corporators,and one corporator each from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the Akhil Bharatiya Sena.

However,as compared with the last civic elections of 2007 when the MNS was a first timer,support for the party in the ward has swelled manifold,especially from the young voting population.

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