A mail dropped by recently in my mailbox. It opened with the words: I have been visiting Project Why for quite some time now and its quite interesting to know the way you take up issues. In fact I have been observing certain things out here in Mumbai but since I don't have a blog that would bring up such issues I am writing it to you.
I gave myself a silent pat on my back before reading on, as somehow the 400 odd blogs that sit on this site were written in the hope that they would make a difference. Like many other things it was just that a hope against hope till Rachana's mail came by. Suddenly what was till then a nebulous though took on a different hue and with it came the realisation of the responsibility that came with it.
This is what she wrote:
My office is located at Lower Parel in Mumbai, a corporate hub where you can find all sorts of offices. The primary concern I feel at this place that slowly and gradually people are occupying the footpaths as a living place. All shabby stuff is thrown here and there and they are doing all possible workouts from cooking to bathing. It becomes difficult especially for women out here to move on the footpath. More over the traffic on the roads is so heavy that it is very unsafe to walk on the road. Initially it was just two -three people who started living out there but now i can find almost 30-40 people in the area just opposite to the Lower Parel station and opp to Kamla mills ( where CNBC is located).
Besides this these people don't seem to be really poor because they are smoking and carrying costly mobiles, but still they are dirty and shabby.
The other aspect of this is nobody seems to be bothered. What the hell is the police doing? Mind you the Lower Parel police station is just at the end of the railway station! I am sure these guys are paying enough to stay at this place. And after some time they will start claiming that they were over here for a long time...so will the Maharashtra government make flats for these people on the footpath as well? Its a pathetic condition. One can never think of a clean and green city and imagine Mumbai to be one. I don't know what to do for all this but as a journalist it hurts that i cant do anything for I don't have that platform to take up issues. I know simply keeping things in mind and thinking over it is of no use I cant make a difference and therefore I am writing this mail to you.
If you can take it up on your blog it might work out something...
As I read her words i realised that one could easily substitute Delhi for Mumbai and Giri Nagar for lower Parel habitat for the poor seems to be something that planners and administrators have wiped off their mind and conscience. In lieu of it encroachment of footpaths seems a great option as it is a new way to feather one's nest. And with time passing and greed growing real shanties have come to stay.
Most of these people that we want to wish away do play an important role in our lives though it may seem invisible or so essential that it has become a second habit. Just let your imagination run free and imagine life without these people. I do not know Mumbai but in Delhi they are the ones who give us most of our creature comforts and are available in the myriad of household emergencies we face.
For seven years I have lived amidst such people. What we forget is that they are just like us, have children to feed, educate and protect and dreams to fulfill, dreams that we often fuel without realising. They carry mobiles because greedy companies offer them special deals as they slowly get caught in the net of hire/purchase.
As civil society we have a responsibility towards these people and need to raise awareness on the issue of habitat for the poor which is a bomb waiting to explode!