It is a colony created for horse groomers in 1945. But a striking fact in this basti,known in record books as Bungalow No- 2,Victoria Road (next to Empress Garden) is that while about 600 horses continue to get a five star treatment here,the so- called- groomers are left to live with unhygienic conditions,mud,mosquitoes and clogged water on walkways.
While residents approach local politicians seeking respite from the pitiable living conditions,the political lot points towards the Turf Club saying the latter does not allow them to carry out any development work. When approached,Turf Club officials disassociated themselves from the population saying 90 per cent of the 1500- odd residents are encroachers and not groomers. But as the dispute continues,ones to bear the brunt are women,small children and the old who seem to have no respite.
Sangeeta Bhosale,30,a local resident claims she has been staying in her house in the colony since birth. Her father Sitaram Mohite was a horse groomer,who settled in the colony created for horse groomers by the Turf Club in 1945. In 1990,groomers joined trade union leader Datta Samant and called for a strike against their employers demanding higher remuneration. The strike is still on and we have not been given a rise of Rs 300 in the monthly remuneration my father and his fellow groomers were demanding, said Bhosale. While majority of groomers who joined the strike then are no more,their families continue to occupy hutments claiming they will not leave the place till compensations for groomers is given to them. My father worked at the stables for 20 years before joining the strike. He should be compensated with at least Rs 3 to 4 lakh, said Sunny Kamble,one of the residents.
The colony is an epitome of filthy and unbearable living conditions. There is mud,waterlogging,mosquitoes,malaria,and open air defecation,besides dogs and cattle roaming . A water tap is located one kilometre from the colony. There are 10 toilets for the 1500 people. The Turf Club provides electricity only between 6 pm and 6 am leaving the congested colony without power during the day. Pradeep Pardeshi,a local Congress activist said,We are now writing to PCB to provide basic amenities to these hutments. Whenever we have tried to bring in construction,repair material,the Turf Club has stopped it at the entry gate.
The Turf Club has its own reasons for inaction. A portion of the plot is defence land leased to the club for 90 years in 1945,while remaining is state government land. Confusion over the jurisdiction of PCB/ state government is a dominant factor. The plot houses almost 600 horses and accommodates the colony of horse groomers. Majority of them joined the strike in 1990 demanding higher compensation. According to internal surveys conducted by the club,almost 90 per cent of the groomers have fled the place. The residents who now occupy the plot are sub-tenants of groomers who no longer stay there. The number sub-tenants is so high that we cannot even drive them out because it will become a political issue. We do not allow any construction work inside because it is defence land leased to us. Still,we have the duty of providing good living conditions only to legitimate horse groomers. If genuine horse groomers approach us with problems about living conditions,we will ensure they are provided good accommodations, said an official.