(Photo by Bhushan Koyande)
(Photo by Bhushan Koyande)

The Lok Sabha elections have already started, with polls to be held in Mumbai on April 29. As the voting day draws near, the candidates are campaigning hard to garner support. The most interesting poll battle will take place in Mumbai South, between Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant and Congress’ Milind Deora. While both candidates are busy in poll campaigning, the Free Press Journal catches up with Arvind Sawant to know more about the work done in his constituency.

What are your 2019 poll promises?

Basically one should understand, this is a parliament election and it is elections of ideology, for which type of government you want at Centre. It is not exactly limited to one constituency, but it is related to nation’s defence, its economic development and finance, so those things are important more during the Lok Sabha elections. Why should we only confine it to only single constituency, I accept its part of MP’s duty to take care of his/her constituency also but the prime duty is to pass the bills make the laws to protect the interest of the common man.

As far as constituency is concerned, I have delivered a main thing for my constituency, coastal road project, it was dream project of our party chief Uddhavji Thackeray, and it required to have permission of CRZ, so I played a small role to get those approved from the parliament, it was victory for us as it was pending for a long time. It is during our government and our tenure the coastal road project got all the necessary approvals.

Secondly, on MBPT land there are many slum dwellers, the Maharashtra state has a different policy for slum rehabilitation but which is not applicable for the hutment dwellers who are on the plot of any state government or MBPT plots. When it comes to MBPT they have a huge lease amount, this is another issue I raised in parliament to which I got positive answer and also got an assurance from government. Nitin Gadkari assured on the floor of the parliament that all these hutment dwellers will get pucca ghar as per the policies of the state government and there will be 20,000 houses on the MBPT lands.

We also are working on developing the East Coast (Colaba to Sewri) which will have gardens and many other things, this is another dream project of Uddhavji Thackeray. During last Assembly elections he gave a presentation to Mumbaikars, in which he said he desires to develop East coast as international hub and international tourist spot. Again, in this plan, we ran into complications but I got it resolved and I think it’s my biggest achievement.

Your comment on MBPT tenants issue?

You can ask anybody, I have conducted three-four meetings with the MBPT land residents, during which I also met Colaba residents which comes under MBPT. Currently, there are permanent structures and small businesses on the MBPT land, places like Darukhana. I have got an assurance for that also and their rehabilitation will also be done. None of tenants will be thrown out of MBPT land.

Now, the issues with the residents of Colaba are a bit different, because as few of the buildings and structures fall under MBPT, the MBPT is demanding high lease rent which the Colaba residents who approached me couldn’t afford.  So what MBPT is doing is that they sending notices to those residents under PPE Act. They are telling people who couldn’t afford the lease rents to vacate. I got stay on that too. And I assure people that after elections I will resolve that issue also.

About Sewri, Maharashtra government has undertaken project of redevelopment of BDD chawls, there are four BDD chawls in Mumbai one is at Worli, Naigoan, N M Joshi Marg, and fourth one is at Sewri. The fourth one has landed in trouble again as it falls in MBPT land, I got that resolved too. The residents of Sewri BDD chawls will get same houses according to state government’s regulations.

Many people from Nepean Sea road and Koli community are protesting against coastal road. Your comments.

If they wanted to protest, why now, just before elections? Inauguration was done four-five months back, I believe somebody is playing politics. I’m the person who fought for PDP Garden when BMC encroached inside the garden and built space to park a fire fighting engine inside the garden, I fought for it and got it removed. I had promised them it will not pass from here (Nepean Sea road).

When it comes to protest, it is a deliberate attempt of miscreants to stall the project and become hurdles for progress. And some of the political leaders on the verge of elections want to take advantage of it. I assure one thing I will protect the PDP garden.

When it comes to fishermen community, I have held number of meetings with them under the guidance of Udhhavji Thackeray, I also held a meeting with the Mumbai Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta along with the Koli community and asked commissioner to give substantial compensation also. Initially, Mumbai Municipal Commissioner said we only give compensation for lands and not for sea, but later I convinced him and in front of Koli community BMC commissioner said whatever the losses are incurred due to the work of the coastal road project will be compensated by the BMC.

How much have you spent on your constituency MPLAD funds? And on what?

I have spent 100% of MPLAD funds. I have built a gymnasium at Colaba police station with best of class equipment. At MRA police station and also at JJ Hospital I have built best of the class gymnasiums. Go to Machi bazaars I have built best public toilets, same at Colaba Koli wada. I have also taken care of elderly and pregnant women by building commodes in those toilets and also installed tanks above those toilets. I have constructed small community halls and stages for local people. I have also developed a children’s park inside PDP garden, which a one-of-a-kind theme park and which doesn’t exist in entire Mumbai. It has adventure sports which kids like. I have also given a cardiac ambulance to JJ Hospital, which cost Rs 55 lakh, and let me tell you no MP has ever done it. I also helped to fast track work of Curry Road FOB. In this case, money was paid by the municipal corporation to the railways but they were not doing it. After I was elected I got it done. I have also installed chairs at Mumbai Central station, now passengers don’t have to sit down on the ground.

As Congress-NCP have allied with MNS, do you think that it has made the contest tough in South Mumbai?

In 2014, MNS contested elections it didn’t affect us, why will it now? Let’s wait and watch, but I don’t think so it will affect.

What issues are you raising in Lok Sabha?

Issue regarding NTC (National Textile Corporations) land. I demanded that no residential complexes should be constructed. Instead of that, build some commercial spaces or small scale industries out of which employment will be generated, this is what I am demanding from the beginning. The NTC is same like MBPT. On their land, they have their own charges and some buildings are in dilapidated conditions so I am working to get those buildings redeveloped. Even LIC owns few buildings that are in poor condition. I am working to get those buildings redeveloped. Then with Railways, I am still am demanding for elevated corridors and also pushing to have toilets in trains in women’s compartments because now it has become a three-hour journey. It will help pregnant women and elderly women, I am raising these issues in Lok Sabha.

People have said that you weren’t seen much on ground. What will you say on that?

It’s absolutely wrong, name any incidents (building collapse or bridge collapse) and Arvind Sawant was there. Whether it’s a marriage or Ganpati festival or Navratri or Gokul Ashtami I was present. Regardless of religion whether it be Eid or Diwali, Arvind Sawant was present.