Mumbai: The KC College polling centre in South Mumbai is where many of the `SoBo’ (South Bombay) elites, including serving and retired IAS and IPS officials, cast their votes.
On Monday, a sizable group of pavement dwellers rubbed shoulders with them. These homeless people, who have made pavements around the Mantralaya, the state government’s headquarters, their home, turned out armed with voter ID and Aadhaar cards.
Shantabai Laxman Kale, 70, said she was among some 300 people who have been living on pavements near the Mantralaya for decades. “We hail from Solapur, and live in Mumbai to eke out a living. We still yearn to have a house of our own,” she said, adding that eviction by civic officials or police is a constant fear in their lives.
“But we come back even when we are evicted and sent outside the city,” she said. Bhamabai Chavan, who works as a cleaner in the Mantralaya on contract basis, said, “We are Indian citizens, and we vote. We are entitled to a house of our own. Ward officials burn our belongings (whenever there is anti-encroachment drive)”.
Many of these pavement-dwellers work as sweepers and cleaners in the Mantralaya, getting about Rs 8,000 per month.
Chavan said they have got Aadhaar and voter cards under the `homeless’ category. Local officials rubbished the claim that these people face harassment.
“Police intervene only when there are orders to evict them,” said a constable who did not wish to be named. They create “unhygienic conditions” and get into squabbles, creating nuisance in the area, he alleged. Some of them have got houses under government schemes in places like suburban Mankhurd, but they rent them out and live here, he said.