Adivashi has long ago blown the myth that the City of 21st century is free of slums. Its own statistics show that the area administered by it – from Dighe to Belapur – has close to 42,000 slums accounting for 29 slum colonies on NMMC lands and 17 on CIDCO plots. And a 10ftx10ft slum used to cost anything between Rs one lakh to Rs 1.25 lakhs. One may wonder as to who sells these places! The city too has its own share of slumlords and land sharks under the guise of political and social workers. Now that the State government has decided to extend the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme to Thane and Navi Mumbai, the prices of slums have begun to zoom. The current going price for a 100 sq ft hutment or semi-pucca place is about Rs three lakhs!
The cut-off year for eligibility under SRA is 2000 and obviously the hutments that mushroomed over the past 14 years will not be entitled for free flats. Nonetheless, the so-called social workers will campaign for the post-2000 lot on ‘humanitarian grounds’, while some of those living in pre-2000 slums will make a quick buck and shift to newer huts. Undoubtedly, slum lords and agents too will make their own gains and cycle continues.
Moving from slum welfare measures to hardcore politics, the city has begun to witness hectic political activity with the announcement of the schedule for the Legislative Assembly elections on October 15. Navi Mumbai that cuts into Thane and Raigad districts has four assembly constituencies – Airoli and Belapur in NMMC area and Panvel and Uran under CIDCO.
The Congress which is in coalition with the NCP at the State level vehemently opposes the partner at NMMC level. Congress corporator Santosh Shetty has demanded that the NCP should either find a candidate outside the sitting MLA and Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik’s family or the seat be allotted to the Congress. Shetty and other corporators like Dashrath Bhagat have been campaigning against Naik for long now. They also threaten to work for BJP-Shiv Sena candidate if their demands are not met. Former NCP strong lady Manda Mhatre, who recently switched over to BJP protesting against Naik, is a contender from the saffron alliance so is Shiv Sena’s Vithal More. Manda has already launched an advertorial campaign in local newspapers. The final outcome will, however, depend on the seat sharing that is still being discussed by BJP and the Sena.
An unfazed Naik says the Modi magic will not work now though his elder son Sanjeev lost to Sena in the Lok Sabha poll. He and his younger son Sandip are betting on the development plank. As reported by Adivashi last week, they hope to cash in on the slew of real estate and infrastructure related plans announced for the city. Congress may not face any problem in Uran and Panvel; Vivek Patil and Prashant Thakur are its sure-shot candidates.
Naik, who celebrated his 64th birthday on Monday, has complained of a peculiar problem –that his opponents may place greeting advertisements to put him in trouble in view of the model code of conduct coming into force. He has written to the Election Commission disclaiming responsibility for such advertisement material and asked his workers not to put up any ‘Happy Birthday’ banners and hoardings which otherwise clutter the city on such occasions. Banners inviting people for a Laghu Rudhra Abhishek at Bakhaleshwar temple in Khairane-MIDC area, coinciding with Naik’s birthday, have been noticed at some strategic junctions in the city. The temple, built by Naik’s nephew Sanoth Tandel, made headlines last year when a PIL was argued at Bombay High Court. The Court ordered the demolition of ‘Glass House’ at Belapur, also built by Tandel, and taking over of the temple land by MIDC. The PIL by RTI activist and a former corporate executive Sandeep Thakur alleged that Naik used the illegal Glass House as his office which the Minister vehemently denied.
Naik and his NCP controlled NMMC may be dreaming of developing Navi Mumbai on the lines of Dubai, but the pathetic condition of a basic amenity like a city bus depot speaks otherwise.
The Vashi depot is full of craters and commuters constantly face the danger of falling down from moving buses. The surface here was repaired before the monsoon and its plight is no better than the other roads. With the extended monsoon, one encounters water logging at various bus depots. Doesn’t the NMMC health department know that fresh water can breed malaria causing mosquitoes?
B N Kumar
This is the 89th in a series on Navi Mumbai by veteran media professional B N Kumar, a long time resident of Mumbai’s twin city. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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