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Friday, 8 May 2015

Pavement Dwellers In Mumbai

At the end of my lane in Bandra, a large family lives on the footpath. It’s a joint family that includes couples, senior members, children and even a dog. They also have a large mosquito net that is spread at night to protect the young ones from mosquito bite from the gutters below them. During the day, the clothes are washed (don’t know that from where they get water to wash the clothes and themselves) but the clothes are dried across cloth-line that connects lamppost and a tree. Some evenings, food is cooked in large vessels on open fire burning wood and twigs. There is no shelter though. They have been living like this since last few years but nobody is able to vacate them…not even police..

But if some drunk driver bangs into them, they will make sure that he is beaten to death. Whenever there are accidents, big group of people gather and try to take the law into their own hands. That is the reason why there are more hit-and-run cases. I am not sympathizing with drunk drivers but I think footpath dwellers should not be allowed and Police should take full responsibility of ousting them off streets…but some of the policemen are so corrupt that they will take bribes from street dwellers/hawkers to turn their attention elsewhere…Sometimes the action is taken when one complains, and they (footpath dwellers) disappear but after few days they are back.

The plight of pavement dwellers has highlighted after twelve years now that Mr. Salman Khan has been punished with prison term for 5years for drunk driving and driving over the sleeping people killing one and injuring four. During the last twelve years, the pavement dwellers have increased ten fold with police and BMC collecting their bribes for turning a blind eye. Citizens complain of dirt, disease, hooligans, drug peddling and discomfort but they are powerless.

People have no idea as to how they can help keep the city clean. There are many NGOs in Mumbai who have taken up the task of educating their children and teaching them some skills. They even provide them food and stationary but they cannot give them shelter nor are they able to relocate them.

But why should NGOs take the full responsibility? Government should be responsible for relocating them. I am sure they are paid well. The BMC is the richest civic body in India with annual budget of over Rs40000crores, most of which never spent but stored away in huge fixed deposits. When are they going to use those fixed deposits?

There is enough money to relocate the pavement dwellers to proper shelters. System has to be improved. It is often observed that when people are provided shelter, they rent out their house and are back on streets. There should be some law to prevent such thing from happening. Every ward has their responsibility therefore a cooperator should be aware of every citizen in his area and he should be held accountable for all the activities in his area.

Also the school and the colleges in the area should be given the responsibility of checking that the environment in their area is kept clean. Students can be held responsible for checking that street bins are kept clean, lamp posts have proper lighting, supervise the person in charge of cleanliness, check that footpaths are in good condition with no broken tiles, manholes are properly covered and they should plant and adopt more trees. There should be a civic project in their syllabus that gives them a brownie point for the social responsibility carried out effectively.

One person cannot bring the change. Unity can. Quality of life is our birthright but we have to put in effort too. A sense of responsibility has to be inculcated from early childhood. We can live comfortably in a clean society. Everybody can.

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