Social activist Medha Patkar's nine-day fast, which ended on Saturday, after the Maharashtra government gave in to her demands and formed a committee to look into the alleged irregularities of Mumbai's Golibar slum redevelopment project, is not considered a victory by all. Some of the residents of the city's second largest slum pocket located in suburban Santacruz feel that Patkar's agitation has not worked in their favour.
"After a lifetime of living in the slums in inhuman conditions when we were all set to move into buildings, Patkar's agitation and the subsequent obsequiousness shown by the government has catapulted our prospects into a state of uncertainty," said 67-year-old Shubangi Shinde. She is the chief promoter and resident of Ganesh Krupa Co-operative Housing Society, the epicentre of Medha Patkar's agitation.
Many of those living in Golibar area say they are victims of Patkar's agitation. Around 26,000 families living in Golibar, which is spread over 140 acres, were all set to start a new life in building, claim locals.
These residents have formed 46 co-operative housing societies and 3,500 people have already vacated their homes and are living in transit camps for the past three years. Residents of nine housing societies have moved into their new homes.
Thirty-six-year old Shaik Kalimuddin, who was born in the Golibar slum, was looking forward to the rehabilitation. "Life in the slum is very tough. We were hoping the next generation would have an opportunity to grow up in an environment sans slums," said Kalimuddin. A member of Asthavinayak co-operative housing society, which is adjacent to Ganesh Krupa, Kalimuddin had vacated his house a year ago. Along with other members of the society, he is living in transit accommodation.
According to Shinde, Patkar is fighting for only a bunch of residents, 72 to be exact, whose claim for dwellings for every member of the family residing in the same house has been rejected by all authorities starting from collector to the Supreme Court.
"The reason we are worried is that the state government cannot go against the Supreme Court rulings and she will keep needling them. Currently, the developer is paying us rent and in case the project lands in a limbo, the developer will not be able to sustain the payment. This is bound to leave us in the lurch. We can neither take refuge in our slum since it has been demolished after we voluntarily vacated it nor are our buildings ready," said Shinde.
Simpreet Singh, coordinator of the National Alliance of People's Movement, an outfit that is supporting Patkar, denied that a majority of the slum-dwellers were not with Patkar's agitation. She added that when Patkar was fasting, she was joined by at least 500 slum-dwellers.