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Slum project will help,not hinder: Dharavi MLA

The Rs 15,000-crore redevelopment project that many residents believe could oust them from their home and hearth may have redrawn battle lines in parts of Dharavi...

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai |
September 25, 2009 1:16:18 am

The Rs 15,000-crore redevelopment project that many residents believe could oust them from their home and hearth may have redrawn battle lines in parts of Dharavi,but MLA Varsha Gaikwad is confident of her chances of getting re-elected.

“We have done enough work in Dharavi for people to know that this is not just another slum rehabilitation project. We’ve been showing people a CD in which a bureaucrat explains the details of the project,that this will be a new township. People want development,” she insists.

The project envisages razing existing shanties in Dharavi,numbered at nearly a lakh,to tap the potential of the vast,centrally located real estate to build a new Dharavi that will mostly comprise commercial spaces mirroring the adjoining Bandra-Kurla Complex. While several thousand industrial units,including large ones engaged in leather works and small home industries making chikki,papad and other food items,will be rehabilitated in the new township,several hundreds working in hazardous industries like the slum’s iconic recycling units are afraid they will be relocated. The Shiv Sena has,in the last couple of years,cashed in on the brewing discontent,promising and demanding larger free homes for the slumdwellers and other things.

But Gaikwad alleges other parties have only stoked partisan politics. “They will return to their Marathi manoos agenda soon,” she says of the Sena-led opposition to the Dharavi Redevelopment Project. “Our plank here has always been development and rights for slumdwellers,whether it was issuing of photo-passes in 1976 or extension of protection until 2000,” she adds.

Her first term has been busy: she’s pioneered an urban health centre in Dharavi,the first civic centre inside the slum with facilities ranging from X-ray to sonography; she’s also organised government-certified courses for about 700 Dharavi women to be trained as beauticians,bakers,manufacturers of soft toys,zardozi workers,etc. “Aam aadmi ke liye sirf Congress hai,” she says.

With Dharavi’s large Dalit population,a candidate from the RPI could have posed a serious challenge,but with a JD (U) candidate against her,not many foresee a tough fight,opposition to the redevelopment project notwithstanding.

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