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'Don't have solution to rehabilitate 30,000 "living" in Mumbai's toxic hell, Mahul'

By Our Representative
The impression has gone strong: The Government of Maharashtra’s housing minister has "denied" 30,000 lives’ freedom from the #Mumbai's toxic hell, Mahul. Talking with the residents of Mahul, Prakash Mehta, Maharashtra’s Cabinet minister for housing, declared, “I don’t have a solution for the rehabilitation of Mahul residents; the ‘government’ will take care of it.”
Mehta was addressing the residents on phone on Thursday, which happened to be the fifth day of the Jeevan Bachao Andolan, organized by the civil society organization, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA).
Thousands of citizens who were ‘rehabilitated’ to Mahul, a highly polluted area declared unfit for human habitation by two courts after the government demolished their homes at the Tansa Pipeline stretch last year, initiated the Jeevan Bachao Andolan on October 28, 2018. On the sixth day, they are yet to get any positive response to their grievances from the government or any minister.
Protesting at Ambedkar Nagar, Vidyavihar (East), residents of Mahul waited till 5 pm on Thursday to get an appointment from Housing Minister Prakash Mehta. The minister was intimated a day before about their plan to occupy the compound in front of his office, in case he failed to listen. Finally, they occupied his office.
Hundreds of affected women and children waited to meet the minister. Mehta’s BJP workers who were present in the office at the time tried to escape from the back door of the occupied office. However, protesters, sitting outside the office five hours, caught them and gheraoed them until they agreed to call the minister.
Mehta finally spoke to the residents on a mobile phone of one of the local BJP workers, who were trying to run away. The conversation between him and GBGBA’s representative continued for 10 minutes. All that the housing minister had to say to people was that he couldn't do anything to save 30,000 lives. The gathering decided to continue the protest.
Meanwhile, a pollution-affected six-year-old girl sitting at the protest had a mild paralytic attack. However, Mahul residents say, they have no other option than taking their sick children to the protest site and demanding justice from the insensitive government.
Mahul, located in Trombay, is one of the most polluted areas of Mumbai. It has been rightly called the ‘Toxic hell of Mumbai’, as it has seen more than 100 deaths due to the pollution in last one-and-a-half years. Many people reportedly suffer from diseases like cancer and tuberculosis here. Skin allergy is common in every household. They remain under constant threat of explosion in chemical factories.
Around 30,000 citizens had been moved from Tansa to Mahul when a pipeline was to be constructed in the region in 2017, and since the very beginning, these citizens had been opposing their site of rehabilitation. They had been appealing to the government for a better place without the toxic level of pollution of Mahul.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) declared Mahul to be an ‘inhabitable’ place in 2015, yet the Maharashtra government decided rehabilitate 30,000 people here, one reason why they call the rehabilitation a ‘planned genocide of the urban poor.’
Reports from various NGO as well as from the KEM hospital have proved that Mahul is critically polluted and its pollution has led to the death of over 100 residents in the last two years. Also, a large number of residents are suffering from various health issues.
In August this year, the Bombay High Court ordered the Government of Maharashtra to either relocate the Tansa Pipeline affected citizens to a better place or compensate them enough so as to enable them to rent a house in Mumbai. However, the government does not seem keen to act. According to the directions of the Bombay High Court, the government was supposed to decide on one of the two options suggested before October 1. But the affected citizens of Mahul have not received any decision or intimation from the government.
The government says that it does not have the place to rehabilitate Mahul residents. However, information received from RTI suggests that there are 70,000 empty flats available in the city, those which are especially built for rehabilitation.
The government, meanwhile, is split into two fractions regarding Mahul. While the BJP maintains an adamant stance, its coalition partner Shiv Sena says it wants to help.
On the third day of protest, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) promised a proposal after Mahul residents had talks with Adityaa Thackeray, Yuva Sena President (Shiv Sena youth wing). However, Uday Samant, Shiv Sena MLA and President of MHADA, promised tenements to just about 300 out of the 5,500 affected families.

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