Navi Mumbai is believed to be one of Mumbai's best-planned areas, but what about the condition of those who keep the city on its feet?
In August 2017, Amol Lalzare, Community Correspondent from Mumbai, made a video that sent shock waves in many circuits in urban Mumbai, touted as the city of dreams for many. Amol's video documented the story of the migrant workers who clean miles and miles of drains so that the city does not come to a standstill in the monsoon. The workers, most of whom come from 'lower' caste communities, worked in dangerous conditions, without adequate protective gear and were paid peanuts for their indispensable labour.
The story in Navi Mumbai, purportedly one of Mumbai's best-planned townships, is no different. In October 2017, Amol followed the workers of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) on their strike. The workers worked without remuneration for months despite repeated complaints.
"They (the corporation) kept telling us that our salaries have been released, then why have we not received them?", asks an angry worker.
Another worker, Mahendra Patil, adds that the amounts are huge and that some workers have not been paid for over a year.
Without appropriate gear when they are getting into gutters and cleaning drains, the workers are also vulnerable to diseases and without proper leave and insurance policies, they don't have the time and money for treatment either. The monthly salary paid to the workers is 7000 rupees. Balbhim Nagile, a worker, pays almost 5000 rupees as rent for his family's accommodation. "How do I educate my children and run my household?", he asks.
"The least they can do is pay us on time", says Patil.
Ganesh Kande, another worker, says that they are given protective gear like gloves and masks, but only when a dignitary is visiting. Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Campaign) photo-ops are not unheard of.
Three months after the strike, the salary of the workers was raised to 15,000 rupees and they are now being paid monthly. But they continue to await permanent employment.
The NMMC, in the meantime, prides itself on a clean city whose streets are swept twice daily, on waste that is segregated before disposal and on beautifying the city. It has also announced cash incentives of 1000 rupees each for citizens who report debris in their areas and is hopeful that its citizens will give it a high ranking in the survey on municipalities being carried out by a central government team.
Meanwhile, the foot-soldiers of the Corporation continue their fight. To support their demand for permanent status as employees, call the NMMC Commissioner Tukaram Munde at 022-27567171 and request him to consider the demand.
Video by Community Correspondent Amol Lalzare
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV editorial team
24 men were trapped in inhumane conditions working twenty four hours a day.
Find some of our best video reports from a year riddled with uncertainities and setbacks.