To get an insight into the matter, Goa Chronicle spoke to a complainant regarding the constant sustenance of these illegal Bangladeshis’ settlements in Navi Mumbai and tried to fathom the level to which this phenomenon is irksome for the local populace.
When asked, the complainant revealed, “This phenomenon of illegal settlements coming up can be seen in many pockets of Navi Mumbai. While this is spread all over Navi Mumbai, I will specifically be talking about Sanpada and Vashi. I have been approaching the NMMC seeking a solution to this problem for the last three years. These settlements, specifically around Palm Beach Road which is a posh area in Navi Mumbai, are jarring and have become extremely problematic for the local inhabitants and that is one of the reasons which forced me to take this up with the NMMC.”
“Palm Beach Road is a place where the local people who have been living in the area for years at a stretch now, go for morning and evening walks and jogs. Earlier, this was an absolutely safe place to visit for such activities but all of a sudden, people started observing hutments which started coming up one after the other without a fail. At one point in time, one could literally see the presence of thousands of such shabby huts adjacent to Palm Beach Road. This is when I took the issue to the local municipal authorities but they would comfortably say that it wasn’t their job and they would not get into this”, the complainant further mentioned.
The concerned local continued, “After they told me that it was not their job to look into this matter, I asked them to give the same statement in writing to me. After I said so, they started avoiding writing the same to me and demolished the settlements partly, and asked the settlers verbally to leave the place. But these never ceased to exist. That was when I directly approached the NMMC Municipal Commissioner. He acknowledged my complaint but the NMMC did not act on it yet again. After that, I had filed an RTI to know about the legalities too. After I continuously pursued the issue, the authorities had to take some action, and they removed some encroachments which were the most conspicuous ones. But it was later seen that whenever the Swachh Bharat Mission came up, the authorities simply covered the hutments up with huge green cloths. I started asking questions regarding this regular activity of covering the settlements up only during one particular point of time over the years. Once, they had put up a couple of toilets in the middle of the road on the dividers so that the illegal settlers would not have to move out to defecate or urinate. All these activities were not only unpleasant, but they forced us to restrict our movement as well.”
“People, especially women were not comfortable moving around like earlier times. Evenings after 7 PM were particularly disturbing when this lungi- wearing illegal inhabitants would just sit in the open smoking and drinking alcohol and doing all sorts of things and creating a ruckus. People became even more apprehensive of the fact that petty crimes like chain snatching could augment even further. The environment soon turned unsafe and unpleasant. Let alone asking those people to leave, it was not even possible to look at those guys. Locals had realized that these are not the kind of people they could get into any sort of conversation with. It was later observed that these settlers would carry containers with them on their cycles in the evenings and reach the NMMC taps to fill the water. They were surviving without any hindrances. After the NMMC had removed parts of these settlements, I had asked them to pay heed to the fact that there were more hutments left and make sure that the ones who have gone away do not come back. But since the last year, these people have started coming back!” divulged the complainant.
The complainant continued, “Not only did they start coming back but there was a pocket where they were provided with a safe haven and were not bothered at all. They started rearing cows and buffaloes for milk. But the NMMC was just not concerned. They have developed their own ecosystem here. Every morning there comes up a vegetable market which itself is illegal and these Bangladeshis sell their stuff in the market. Their inhabitance is being legitimized. The men are getting jobs as watchmen. And this has become extremely scary. Hordes of people come out on the streets out of nowhere at festivals like Eid. They have also built an illegal structure to offer prayers! Their access to resources is increasing gradually. Even though a part was demolished, but if I leave pursuing this matter at this point, their numbers will keep on increasing. They have created different hubs of settlement.”
“Even the policemen who visit the locality are aware of the fact but do not take any sort of action. These police officers readily extort money from individuals merely learning to drive on the road but will not utter a word against these illegal settlers. But I have been persistent in talking to the NMMC but they have come up with an innovative excuse of late. They say that these plots do not come under our jurisdiction but belong to CIDCO. Whenever I write to the NMMC Commissioner, Mr. Abhijit Bangar, he simply forwards my complaint to the Deputy Commissioner, who does nothing! They are simply not ready to own the issue up and constantly try to put the onus on CIDCO. But they will never ask me to do so officially, in writing. The Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Amarish Patinigire was even arrested in the past for making money out of such illegal encroachments! Mr. Bangar is not ready to speak to me; Mr. Patinigire does not pick my calls up and does not respond to my emails. Therefore, I am now trying to garner support through social media. But I will continue to go hammer and tongs after the authorities because I cannot render my locality unsafe and insecure. Other people are just not ready to speak up as they don’t want to take any risks. They are ready to compromise their own safety and ease but not to raise their voices. A lady from the media had approached Mr. Bangar regarding the issue, and he lied saying that he has received no formal complaint!” said the complainant while highlighting how the NMMC continues to skirt the issue and address the elephant in the room.
Addressing the more perilous problems associated with these illegal settlements, the complainant let us know, “Out of many such slums in Navi Mumbai, terrorists have been nabbed in the past! Reckoning that my city or locality is a similar threat to the country frightens me even more. My Bengali friends have spoken to these people and have told me that these are Bangladeshis and speak Bangladeshi Bengali, which is clearly different from what is spoken in India. This can categorically be stated that they are not Indians!”
DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author
#Navi Mumbai, #NMMC, #Illegal Bangladeshis, #Abhijit Bangar, #Amarish Patinigire, #Palm Beach Road, #Sanpada, #Vashi