With a bucket of water, Rubina Khan paces as she awaits her turn in a community toilet in Gilbert Hill. It has been half an hour. Two of eight cubicles remain shut, they have not been cleaned by BMC, she alleges. There is no water connection in toilet, an open drain runs outside. With her dupatta clamped over nose, she says, “Swachh Bharat had zero impact on this slum.”
In Muslim-dominated Gilbert Hill, where votes swayed towards BJP in 2014 for achhe din, the slum dwellers claim no change is visible on ground. Housewife Zulekha Shaikh voted for Sena-BJP alliance to bring Narendra Modi in Centre, although she does not know who the sitting MP is.
“The cost of ration has increased,” Shaikh says.
Starting 5 am, the crowd thickens outside community toilets. Few months ago, Shaikh changed her timings from morning to afternoon but by then the toilets get very dirty, she complains.
“When Modi announced Swachh Bharat, we thought sanitation here will improve. But nobody is interested in cleaning slums,” says Heena Shaikh, who lives further down the lane.
She points to open drain running outside her main door where residents wash clothes, and young children urinate.
A survey conducted by Congress of 3,000 voters in Mumbai North West showed roads, drainage, cleanliness, traffic and unemployment were major issues for residents. Click here for more election news
In Gilbert Hill, except for corporation elections, no MLA or MP walks up the hilly terrain to meet slum dwellers.
Issues here range from high electricity bill to open drains, lack of adequate and clean toilets, and high cost of ration.
The area, traditionally a Congress bastion, has about a lakh voters, belonging to Muslim, Dhangar, Marathi and Gujarati community.
But in 2014, the Congress barely managed to lead with a margin of 11,000 votes.
“Several Muslims voted for Modi, to see if there is a change in our living conditions,” said Rehana Shaikh, a housewife. She wants to work but is not permitted to step out. “Can’t the government provide us home-based work?” she asks.
Local residents pay Rs 20 to the civic body to keep toilets cleaned every month. Slum dweller Shafique Shaikh says the population overburdens the few community toilets.
With confidence in BJP government dwindling, Congress is using its president Rahul Gandhi’s assurance of 500-square-foot homes to slum dwellers along with Rs 72,000 per year to poor families as a bait to win back votes in this pocket.
“Things have changed. There is an anti-Modi wave visible to us,” says local corporator Meher Haider. According to Shiv Sena leaders, local Sainiks keep visiting Gilbert Hill to sort out civic issues. Sena’s sitting MP Gajanan Kirtikar, who seeks a second term, has conducted road shows in Sagar City, adjacent to Gilbert Hill. Congress candidate Sanjay Nirupam is yet to visit the narrow serpentine lanes of Gilbert Hills, although he is aggressively canvassing through slums of North West constituency.