The Koli community in Colaba’s Macchimar Nagar may opt for NOTA (None of the Above) option in the October 21 state Assembly elections if candidates, in the fray from the seat, do not clarify their position on various projects, including the Shivaji Memorial that is proposed to come up in the Arabian sea off south Mumbai.
The five koliwadas in Colaba, with more than 7,000 voters, have been protesting against the location of the memorial, citing the restriction to be imposed around it. “We are not opposed to a memorial dedicated to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. But, the government has not answered our concerns about its location. The proposal says that there will be restrictions, especially the area around the memorial is likely to be declared a no-fishing zone. There has been no study to understand the impact of the project on the biodiversity and livelihood of traditional fishing communities,” Damodar Tandel, president of Akhil Maharashtra Macchimar Kruti Samiti, said.
While BJP candidate Rahul Narwekar had skirted around the issue at a ‘sabha’ (meeting) held last week at Macchimar Nagar, MLA Ramesh Patil, who was also present at the event, had said that the project would open up more livelihood options. Fishermen, he said, could ferry tourists to and fro to the memorial.
“We are not in favour of the memorial coming at the cost of fishing. Why are promises about jobs being made without answering our basic questions about the overall impact the project will have? How many people will they give such jobs to? Will that be enough to sustain all of us?” Raju Koli, a resident of the area, asked.
Congress candidate Ashok (Bhai) Jagtap, meanwhile, has maintained that the concerns of the fishermen has to be understood and their concerns be considered.
For Colaba’s 2.7 lakh voters (apart from the fishing community), redevelopment in areas like Girgaon, tenancy of leased buildings belonging to the Mumbai Port Trust and traffic congestion in the plush pockets of Cuffe Parade are a few other key issues.
Campaigning in Girgaon last week, Jagtap said that redevelopment and relocation of the predominantly Marathi population is a core issue for the Congress. Accusing Narwekar of being a “representative of the builders” who is not equipped to solve the issues of the tenants, he said: “Girgaon is the soul of the city. This area is now considered a gold mine where the entire focus is on sale, and not the people who have resided here for decades. I am not saying that it is wrong, but benefits, like extra FSI, are given to builders and developers to ensure these houses are given a priority, but it is not done and a vertical slum is built instead.”
In a retort, Narwekar said neither he nor any of his family members were associated with any builders’ lobby. “The Congress absolutely has no issues to press on to get votes because they have done no work in this constituency,” he said.