Little Humans of M-East Ward- Arbaaz Shah

Dressed in all denim, with hints of gold streaks in his hair, and a silver bali on his left ear, this boy has swag like any other 17 year old in Mumbai city. Meet the lead volunteer of the Bal Panchayat in Sanjaynagar, M-East ward, whose way with words, keeps you hooked.

 I am 17 years old. Besides being in the 11th grade at Narang School, Chembur , I also look after the Bal panchayat in Sanjay Nagar. From the issues that prevail in our community, we have collectively selected the issue of ‘toilets’. Where we live there is an approximate population of 2000-2500 people, and not even one toilet! Some time ago, there used to be one toilet, which was broken down under the pretext of it being illegal. This causes serious issues for us. ‘Humare ma-behen ko toilet jaane ke liye bahut door jaana padta hai, road ke us side par, aur kafi problem hoti hain.” Small children don’t know where and how to go, so they do it wherever they are.

To deal with this issue, on 6th October, we decide to run a campaign, by speaking to people of the community to know how many of them agreed on having a toilet built within our vicinity. When we started collecting signatures, we got 1390 of them! When we asked them why? They too revealed many problems they faced around not having access to a loo.

Armed with signatures and determined to take this initiative further, on 9th October, we went to the M-East ward and spoke to the concerned Adhikari in charge about our problems, asking him to help us with a solution. He heared us out and asked us to return in a week. Eagerly awaiting our next visit, we promptly reached the office hoping for an answer. The Adhikar told us to call and meet BMC Officer, who would come and inspect the location, to see how and where a toilet could be built. For 2 days we tried his number, but couldn’t get through. On the 3rd day, he picked up and we explained our situation to him. Thereafter, everytime we called he would ask us to call back the next day. This went on for sometime, where he evaded our questions and kept promising to show up the next day. 2 weeks ago when we called, he said ‘Diwali aa rahi hai’ and he was on leave, and to contact him only after it was over. On 26th October, we called again and pleaded him to come. He finally showed up! We then took him to a predecided location assigned for the toilet that was of convenience to all in the neighbourhood, but he insisted the toilet would be built near the ‘gutter’. ‘Jaha bhi banana ho, banaiye…lekin, banaiye!’

‘Aapka kaam 10-15 din mein chalu ho jayega,’ he said with a lot of confidence. It’s already been 12 days and there is no sign of it. After numerous follow ups he said it will still take 15-20 more days to take some action. ‘Sir, please hamara kaam jaldi shuru karvadijiye, hume bahut problem hoti hain!’ to which he hung up mid sentence. Despite trying his phone multiple times, Rathod sir continued to cut our calls. This is also the treatment we get everytime we go to M-East ward. They only allow few of us in, the rest have to wait outside. We’re shunned around and asked questions about what we are doing there and who we have come to meet. We don’t like this at all.

We are desperate for this issue to be resolved soon. At night when we want to use the loo, we go over to the dumping ground, which is dark and dangerous. There are hoards of people doing ‘nasha’, people flash lights on you when you use the loo, and abuse small children too. There was recently a case of a small girl who got abused by the goons who hang around at the dumping ground, when she went to use the toilet…and noone can identify who these people are in the dark. We only use the dumping ground because we have no choice.

Mission 24 is a civic initiative, aimed at bringing basic amenities to people in M-East ward – amenities without which a life with dignity and self-respect is unthinkable. As we know, of the total 24 wards in Mumbai, M-East ward is 24th, right at the bottom, with regard to all human development indices.

Photo Credits : Nipa Bhansali/ Leher

Words By : Nipa Bhansali/ Leher

Nipa Bhansali has worked on Communications for Development for 9 years, she is a trained photographer, passionate about all things visual and a team member of Leher. Follow her @nipabhansali on twitter.

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