WHEN AN under-construction road in Kalina was named after the late Hans Bhugra over two decades back, his family was slightly disappointed over the bumpy road they feared was in a corner nobody would use. But over the years, the Hans Bhugra Marg connecting CST Road in Kurla-Kalina to the Western Express highway in Santcruz (East), has seen five star hotels, hospitals, the headquarters of the Maharashtra Forensic Sciences Laboratory and the entrance to the Mumbai University added along its stretch.
In addition, the pavements on either side of the road are dotted by vendors of potted plants who have turned the stretch into a mini-nursery, lending to the road a somewhat scenic image.
Hans Bhugra was a two-term corporator in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation between 1967-1977 and was also elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly on a Congress ticket from Santacruz. Vijay Bhugra (66), one of the late Hans Bhugra’s three sons, says, “One of the main passions of my father that eventually led to other things like politics was social work. He had a passion to see that education was available to everyone.”
Explaining how he got interested in the field, Vijay adds, “When children from the Sunder Nagar area in Santacruz (East) would not get admissions to other schools, my father would intervene. Someone challenged him that if he felt so bad why didn’t he himself set up a school for these kids? The thought remained with him.”
This led to Bhugra, along with a few social workers, to start his first school in the residence of a social worker where 15 children enrolled way back in 1961, added Vinod Bhugra, Vijay’s younger brother. “Over the decades, that school has turned into the Kalina Education Society (KES), an aided school, that catered mainly to the ‘have-nots’. Currently, we have over 3,000 students from class 1 to 10,” says Ritu, Vinod’s wife, who plays an active role in running the school. His children say it was this goodwill that helped Bhugra, who was born in Lahore and moved to Mumbai after Partition, to win three elections, two for the civic body and the third as a legislator.
Unfortunately, two years into his first term as a legislator, Bhugra passed away in 1987, says Ritu. “Within two years of his death, activists in the area who has seen the work put in by him, came together and approached the civic body to name the road after him. The resolution was passed unanimously. He was respected across party lines.”
Today, there are four places on the road including the junction where it connects with CST Road, where a plaque identifies the road name. “Sometimes the plaque falls off and we have to inform the BMC that puts it up again,” Ritu says. According to several students of the Mumbai University, this becomes a go-to road during peak hours with the Nehru Road connecting the Western Express Highway to the University facing major traffic snarls. Rajiv Ravindaran, a university student, says, “There is almost never any traffic on this road. Also it is dotted on both sides with flowers so it makes for a pleasant view.”
Vinod says, “Earlier, the road was not well constructed and hardly anyone used it. Now it has become such an important road. Recently when my son went to Chennai, someone there saw his full name and asked him if he had any connection with the Hans Bhugra Road in Mumbai. My son informed him it was his grandfather. He was so happy and recounted the incident with glee. While those outside may not know about the name, you ask anyone in the Santacruz area and they remember my father. While unlike others he may not have made a fortune for himself, he earned himself goodwill.”