Mumbai: The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) Metro 3 line work, connecting Colaba, Bandra and SEEPZ, has reached Thakurdwar (Girgaum), with the underground drilling and boring work proceeding on war footing. Most residential buildings have been evacuated, except the fish market at Chira Bazar. The fisherwomen are a worried lot as they stand to lose their source of livelihood. They had protested when the metro project began to take shape with the arrival of drilling and boring machines.
Repeated notices, asking them to vacate the premises at the earliest are being put up in the market and this is making them anxious. The fisherwomen, speaking to The Free Press Journal, could not stress enough on the impact this project would have on their livelihood and alleged this prime concern is not being adequately addressed by the MMRCL. Preeti Danve, a fisherwoman and the vice president of the Chira Bazar Maasli Vikreta Mandal (Chira Bazar Fish-sellers’ Association) says her husband earns a meagre Rs 7, 000 monthly and their entire family is dependent on her fish business. “I have two small children and they are both studying in a private English medium school. How can I run a household with only Rs 7,000? This metro project is destroying my livelihood,” Danve said.
Then there is Tarabai Koli, 77, who comes all the way from Uran to sell fish at Chira Bazar. She says, “I have been living alone after my husband’s death. My four daughters are married and my only source of income is from selling fish. I do not want to be a liability on anyone and want to know what will become of my future.” Anita Nakva, president of the fish-sellers’ association, said they have 140 women members. She said, the MMRCL is ready to pay our association Rs 4.50 lakh per month collectively as rent, if our members vacate the plot. “Which means, each woman will get only Rs 3,700 every month, which is much below what they earn,” Nakva pointed out.
“We are not against the metro, but want a guarantee no injustice will be done to us. The alternative workplace we have been offered is an old dilapidated building, the Bengali School at Girgaum. The MMRCL has also given us the option to accept the rent and go elsewhere. We are demanding to be paid adequately to set up our own fishing business, since our customers will not come to the new place,” said Nakva.
Meanwhile, Danve added, unlike hawkers, the fishermen and women are not licensed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and since they have no proof of their profession, fighting for their rights has become an uphill task, as every authority demands proof of their licence and business for compensation or alternative workplace. The MMRCL did not reply to the queries sent.