Residents of the Mumbai’s Ghatkopar area were forced to relocate to Mahul, having hazardous living conditions and bad air quality.
People living in Bhimnagar and Ambedkarnagar areas of Ghatkopar, Mumbai, had to go through an ordeal as they were asked to vacate their rooms. The whole Ghatkopar area was razed to the ground by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The demolition was carried out as huge Tansa water pipelines were running right under their settlement.
According to the Bomabay High court in 2009 order, the settlement within ten meters if either side of the pipeline was asked to be removed. Before the demolition, the State assured that all the residents will be rehabilitated and accordingly the State Government relocated families from Ghatkopar to Mahul Gaon.
“Mahul Gaon was allotted to us. But it is 9-10 km away, while the court ordered a rehabilitation area in a 3 km radius. It is also a polluted place”, said Kaushalya Jagpat, a resident of Vidyavihar. Mahul, which is a heavily-industrialised area with Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum refineries operating there, along with other industries like Tata Power, and Rashtriya Chemical and Fertilizers. The residents were forcefully relocated to a place which lacks a clean environment, basic means of livelihood and education facilities.
The latest ‘The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill’ states that no one shall be dispossessed until all payments are made and alternative sites for the resettlement and rehabilitation have been provided. In addition, the Bill is supposed to provide compensation to those who are dependent on the land being acquired for their livelihood. But the people who were shifted to Mahul received no such consideration. “Since shifting to Mahul, our living conditions have worsened. We are staging a protest. We have lost our jobs, our children aren't able to attend school. Family members are falling sick. The water in Mahul is polluted, causing people to fall sick”, added Kaushalya.
Independent reviews by IIT Bombay, National Green Tribunal and the Bombay High Court order dated August 2018, highlighted hazardous living conditions and bad air quality in the area. “We were assured alternate housing within from our previous location in Ghatkopar. Since then he has not come to visit us and has not fulfilled a single promise”, said Kaushalya while staging a protest towards the apathetic approach of the State and BMC authorities. In the last 1.5 years, 150 people have died due to inferior Air Quality Index (256) and polluted environment.
A group of local activists led a movement called Mahul Prakalpgrast Samiti (MMRDA Colony) insisting that the residents have to be moved from Mahul. “We beg the Chief Minister to pay attention to our situation. Will you allow your family to live on the streets? What will you pick, given a choice between a life on the streets and a life in a polluted hell-hole?” Yogita Kadam, a Vidyavihar resident. In the month of November last year, the State Government decided to rehabilitate families from Mahul to Kurla, but the process of reallocating the residents has been continually delayed.
Video by Community Correspondent Amol Lalzare
Article by Grace Jolliffe, a member of the VV editorial team
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