Glass-fronted bldgs show Jogeshwari East the mirror

Mumbai: 10 Oct, 2019 (Times of India)

After spending 50 years of his life in the dingy 100 sq ft shanties of Jogeshwari’s infamous ‘Bandra plot’— a dense slum pocket teeming with a population of thousands but no sanitation, roads, drainage or sunlight— Firoze Khan still hopes for a change in these sub-human conditions. A driver and father of two teenaged sons, he says, “Even we want to live in bigger homes near open spaces, where kids can play and adults have mornings walks.”

Scarred for years due to its proximity to the bloodshed of the 1992-93 riots, residents of Hari Nagar, Amina Nagar, Goli Nagar within ‘Bandra plot’ say they are desperate to rid themselves of poor living conditions. As voting day draws near, residents of this area off Western Express Highway are eager to hear about solutions around redevelopment, sanitation and employment. Despite its violent past with the Shiv Sena, many are even willing to put their trust in sitting MLA Ravindra Waikar, also the state’s junior housing minister. The 60-year-old Sainik is aiming for a third consecutive win from Jogeshwari East.

Waikar, a corporator four times before he became an MLA in 2009, is confident his work speaks for itself. “From the Jogeshwari of the 1990s that was synonymous with communal riots and crime, it’s transformed into a modern hub with good residential options as well as corporate spaces. My aim is to strengthen amenities over the next five years, including building a stadium,” he told TOI. In 2014, Waikar comfortably won the seat, polling over 72,000 votes and defeating BJP’s Ujwala Modak by nearly 28,000 votes. Owing to the Sena-BJP pact, Modak is not contesting this time.

Both Congress and AAP have also fielded candidates who have worked on tribal issues. AAP candidate Vitthal Lad said he’s been working towards resolving issues of the tribal population in cities since 1983. “Little has changed in terms of housing or living conditions for them. Worse, Aarey is being encroached on, and often politicians are handin-glove with the encroachers,” he said. Jogeshwari East, with an electoral base of over 2.80 lakh, has fast transformed with slums and chawls from Majaswadi, Shyam Nagar and Meghwadi making way for plush towers.

However, development has not been uniform for everyone, says Khan from ‘Bandra plot.’ “It has been over three years since the SRA project to redevelop our area was finalized, but nothing has been done except surveys,” he said. Also, locals say residential or commercial growth has not resulted in a simultaneous change in civic amenities and infrastructure. The arterial 10.6kmlong Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road has become a bane owing to traffic snarls.

“The Development Plan speaks about creating two roads from Poonam Nagar and Mahakali to ease the inside traffic into JVLR and WEH, but no work has happened there,” said ALM member Ramesh Pai. Columnist Robert Clements, a Poonam Nagar resident, said any transformation is incomplete without upgradation. “We are blessed in terms of greenery and open spaces, but the area still doesn’t have a sewage system,” he said.

Waikar claims every slum pocket in the ward has water, electricity and toilets, including areas populated by the Muslim community. “In the last election, I won at least 6,000 Muslim votes, and that number will grow,” he said. “No party is willing to field any candidate against me because they know I have worked hard,” he said.