After the blast
Mahul residents' long yearning for rehabilitation
Residents of Mahul’s Project Affected Persons (PAP) township have been asking for relocation due to a potential threat to their lives posed by chemical industries and refineries in that area. On the busy morning of August 9, little did they know that their fears will come true and they will return home to see their family members injured and windows, doors, broken due to the devastating explosion in the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) refinery.
This time, the residents had a narrow escape, as the explosion which took place was at the opposite side of the residential complex which lies in the vicinity of BPCL refinery.
53-year-old Narendra Singh who fell from his sofa due to tremors did not know that those tremors were not of an earthquake but of the explosion at the refinery. It was only when his wife returned from outside, did he know the reality. Singh who is bedridden due to joint pain and psoriasis, claimed that he was completely healthy and fine before he shifted to Mahul.
While narrating his horrific experience of the incidence, Singh said, “I was sleeping on a couch when I felt tremors and I fell from couch due to shock and trauma.” Singh further said that he could not even call his wife as there is a problem of a network in the area and lied there in pain.
Narendra Singh is one of the few residents who has been living in pathetic conditions at the Mahul township where they were rehabilitated under the slum rehabilitation project. Narendra Singh also claimed that his son Shubham too, started to develop skin issues thanks to polluted water and air in that area. He also lost his 29-year-old daughter to cancer in June 2017.
Mahul Township is built under the PAP scheme and has 72 buildings with a capacity of approximately 80 thousand. Currently, 30 thousand residents are living in the township. This township is a poorly planned and lacks proper sewage management systems and often faces issues of sanitation. The nearest hospital and school are at the distance of approximately 12 KM and it takes a journey of an hour and 150 rupees to reach there. Increase in travel expenses has led to dropping out of many children from schools and colleges.
Ravina Malhotra who delivered a baby who had a very weak immune system, which she claimed is a result of the pathetic living condition. Ravina left Mahul when her baby fell ill and was admitted to ICU. Ravina currently lives with her parents in Ambarnath. When asked whether she wants to return back to Mahul to her home she said, “Jab baccha hi nahi rahega to ghar ka kya fayda (What is the use of my own house when it is not safe for my child)”.
Hossain Indorewala, who is the co-founder of the Collective for Spatial Alternative, an organisation which conducted an impact survey on Mahul said that the refineries and chemical industries posed a potential threat to Mahul residents and civilians should not be living there, a fact that can be highlighted, especially after the recent explosion at BPCL. The report submitted by his organization concluded that the Mahul project is a poorly planned one and unfit for habitation. Reports further add that the PAP township, in fact, has all the characteristics of a slum area defined by the Slum Act.
Bilal Khan, who is a housing rights activist and is helping Mahul residents since last one year said, “This township is in a highly industrialised area and marked as unfit for habitation by NGT in 2015 but the government continued to dump slum dwellers here.” He added that this area is always prone to threats like the explosion at BPCL and there is no guarantee of a life of these residents.
Rekha Ghadge, who is one of the residents in Mahul township said, “On August 10, we marched till the ward office of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and have given deadline 2 days to BMC for further action.”
Anita Dhole while narrating her experience of admitting her mother to hospital after she complained of breathlessness said that she had to wait for half an hour at 2 in the night for a taxi to take her mother to the hospital. Dhole further said that her mother, who had come to her home in Mahul suddenly fell ill due to the polluted air.
Minister of Slum Rehabilitation Authority Prakash Mehta, who, on various occasions, has shrugged of his responsibility by putting the onus on BMC did not respond to calls and messages by IndieJournal.