Mumbai Local

Nanded’s drought refugees

Life source:If water was hard to come by in Nanded, conditions in Mumbai are only marginally better—Photo: Smaran Shinde  

It is an annual migration for people like 67-year old Sunderbai Anant Jadhav from Mukhed Taluka of Nanded, to the familiar if squalid confines of Mumbai. The mother of five girls and a boy is part of the contingent that arrives each year, when parched conditions threaten their very existence.

“Right from around Diwali things were going from bad to worse. No water is available even to drink. I have been coming to Mumbai for the last three years. We are charged for water, but it is at least available,” says Bhimashankar Jadhav from the group.

Another senior woman, who arrived at the ramshackle colony only three days ago, complains that pigs from the nearby tenements near Barve wadi in Ghatkopar west raid their provisions. “We stack our food on trees.”

If water was hard to come by in Nanded, conditions in Mumbai are only marginally better. It is an open ground in the midst of a hilly landscape that also houses encroached tenements on slightly higher ground . The migrants have not found the proverbial oasis. A local councillor sent food packets last week, while another asked the neighbourhood police station in-charge Mr Mullah to help. He sent a tanker of water for about 500 people.

When this correspondent visited the settlement, most of the men had gone towards the market area near Ghatkopar metro and markets looking for work.

The water donations did not last long, and the travellers are a distressed lot, having to purchase water on the one hand and face local slumlords (a couple of whom were detained by the police last week) who demand squatter fees. A couple of kilometres away, is the local filling station of the Brihanmumbai Muncipal Corporation (BMC), where on an average 230 tankers are filled daily by private operators who run 30 to 40 tankers each.

BMC official S Rathod heads the filling station and says defensively, “Our role is to simply fill up the tankers. The scrutiny of water demand is done at ward level. We do not do an audit to track where the tanker is going. Our role is limited to filling tankers with water from Tansa, Vaitarna and Powai lakes. The BMC itself has only 6 tankers.” Another senior civic official, from the filling station says on condition of anonymity that “the tankers are used as a tool to assert power by councillors. Anybody can book them right outside the gates. The wrong person is entrusted with the task of auditing the tanker requirements in Mumbai.”

He adds cryptically, “Only 20 per cent of the demand is fulfilled from our station. In fact, when a pipeline burst causes a shortage, we deploy tankers free.”

The Nanded migrants seek a similar arrangement, but don't have a burst pipe to show, only parched throats.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 4:01:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/nandeds-drought-refugees/article8469342.ece

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