The ugly duckling of Mumbai’s underbelly — century-old clusters of BDD Chawls — where Mahatma Gandhi spent a night among the ‘Mehtar Samaj – (Sweepers) 84-years ago — is all set to don a new ‘avatar’ with Asia’s biggest redevelopment finally kicking off, officials said.After three decades of hiccups, delays, litigation, political upmanship and other speedbreakers, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray performed the ground-breaking ceremony last week for the mega-redevelopment project estimated to cost around Rs 20,000-crore.
The first bulldozers started razing the historic but crumbling eyesores, built (1921-1924) by the erstwhile ‘British Development Department’ (BDD), conceptualized by the then Governor of Bombay, Sir George Lloyd, for middle-class mass-housing – identical, matchbox structures, similar to those built by erstwhile Communist countries.”A total of 207 old buildings with 160-sq.feet facing chawls (tenements) a passage of upto 20-feet width, common water supply, bathing and toilet areas, spread across 93 acres in Worli, Naigaum, NM Joshi Marg and later, Sewri, shall be rebuilt,” an excited Akhil BDD Chawl Bhadekaru Hakk Sanrakshan Samiti (ABCBHSS) General Secretary Kiran Mane – who was born and spent his entire life here – told IANS.Each of the 17,000 families, mostly mill-workers, eked out a miserable existence — some cramped as many as 15-20 people per tenement in the ground-plus-3-storied buildings with 20 chawls on each floor.Over the next few years, they will move to some 32 swank towers in 500-sq.feet 2-BHK ultra-modern flats with top amenities, bringing a sea-change to their lives.Ex-Shiv Sena legislator Sunil Shinde, who spent years on the project groundwork, said it will be supervised by Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority (MHADA), and shall be completed in 8 years, and the first phase expected to be ready within 3 years.”It is because of the determined vision of CM Uddhav-saheb and Minister Aditya-ji Thackeray, ensuring the project took off in 20 months since they assumed office,” Shinde told IANS.To be built by Tatas, L&T and Shapoorji Pallonji for different projects, the well-planned new complexes of 40-storied and 22-floor tall towers with floors for parking, wide roads, at least 4 four schools, welfare centres, mini-hospitals, gardens, plagrounds, markets and shopping plazas.”However, we want the government to reduce the construction time, give a corpus fund of Rs.10-Lakhs, one parking for each flat and hike the area for the 300-odd commercial premises from 200 sq.feet to 300 sq. feet,” Mane said.Shinde pointed out that the scheme has been so well-conceived that each family living here, including around 1,800 police personnel, shall shift to transit quarters along with an agreement of flat allotment in the new towers – guaranteeing that all those who leave the BDD Chawls, will get a flat as per the construction plans.As they await a bright future, many old-timers now reminisce of the generations spent in their ‘chaali’ (chawl) system, considered a form of housing unique to Mumbai – where one building will be preserved for posterity.
“The rooms were tiny, but people were large-hearted. Our life was unique, lot of camaraderie punctuated with brawls, sharing all joys and sorrows, births or deaths, celebrating festivals of all religions together, whether Diwali, Eid or Christmas,” said a longtime resident Dhonduram Baikar, 85.Another local, Mangesh Sawant recalled how people hailing from different villages, would name their homes or the buildings after their native place.There were many poor folks who celebrated Ganeshotsav, Satyanarayan Pooja, or fullfledged weddings in the common passages decorated for the occasion, where even the uninvited neigbours dropped in to bless the couple!”The chawls bustled with kids running around, teens studying or quarreling, loafers loafing around, and occasionally Cupid struck several young boys and girls who ended up with marital bliss,” chuckled 85-year-old Neelam Joshi, who had a ‘love-marriage’ 55 years ago with a boy Manohar Joshi, from the next building.In 1937, there was a huge flurry of activity when the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi arrived here and spent a night with the sweepers’ community here.The Chief Architect of Indian Constitution Bharat Ratna Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was a regular visitor to BDD Chawls and had planted a ‘Peepal’ sapling which has now bloomed into a gigantic shady tree, said Mane.Months before his assassination (May 1991), the former PM and Bharat Ratna Rajiv Gandhi – then the Leader of Oppositon – was delayed for a rally in the Gandhi Maidan, but finally turned up the next morning around 3.30 a.m., but the venue was full of enthusiastic though groggy-eyed people still waiting to hear him out!”BDD Chawls gave many eminent persons to the country – the founder of Republican Party of India and ex-Governor of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar (1973-1977) Dr. R. D. Bhandare, legendary test cricketer Ramnath Parker, Ranji Trophy player Sanjay Patil, prominent Dalit activists, former Mumbai Mayor Nandu Satam (1988-199), litterateurs like Bhausaheb Adsul, Vishwasrao Bhosale, eSamtrat’ Editor Babban Kamble, et al, hailed from here,” said Shinde proudly.Mane revealed how, at Worli BDD Nos. 89 to 92, inhabitated by many Indian Railway employees, a train engine used to chug upto the buildings adjacent to the railway lines, pick up the staffers in the morning and drop them back in the evening!A popular shooting locale for Bollywood and Marathi films and even tele-serials, there are two dedicated “BDD Chawl sets” in Raigad and Thane, and the chawl culture has been immortalized in many many essays, documentaries, Marathi, Hindi and English books.
Omicron concerns: Mumbai, Pune, Nashik postpone schools’ reopening
Amid concerns of the Covid-19 variant Omicron, the reopening of schools from Class 1 to 7 has been postponed by 10-15 days in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, officials said here on Tuesday.
The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation Commissioner I.S. Chahal and Pune Municipal Corporation Mayor Murlidhar have said that schools in the two cities — both among the worst-hit in the Covid-19 two waves in 2020 and 2021 — will now reopen from December 15.
Similarly, the Nashik Municipal Corporation, which was also among the badly-hit cities in the past two years of the pandemic, has also postponed the schools reopening plan to December 10.
However, all schools in the rest of Maharashtra are likely to reopen from December 1, for Class 1 to 5 in the rural areas and 1-7 in the urban areas with full Covid protocols, as announced earlier by School Education Minister Prof. Varsha E. Gaikwad.
Taking precautions, the BMC is currently tracking all passengers who have arrived in the city from the 12 Omicron-hit nations since November 10 to detect if any of them are infected by the new strain.
The state government has also sought information on all passengers landing at the three international airports in the state in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur, besides those arriving from other states, by flights originating from the 12 nations.
The BMC has already announced that a 14-day institutional quarantine regime will be compulsory for all such passengers and home isolation will not be permitted under any circumstances.
The state, major cities and district health authorities are gearing up to face the challenge of Omicron by readying hospitals, beds, ICUs, liquid medical oxygen stocks, medicines, doctors, para-medical and non-medical staff, and other health infrastructure to cater to a possible patient rush in the coming weeks, even as Covid-19 vaccination drive has gained momentum.
Mamata Banerjee to meet Sharad Pawar, India Inc in Mumbai
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will call on the Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar during her Mumbai visit starting here Tuesday, official sources said here.
“CM of West Bengal Ms. Mamata Banerjee-ji will pay a courtesy visit to our party President Sharad Pawar Saheb tomorrow, 3 pm at his residence ‘Silver Oak,’ on Dec. 1, in Mumbai,” said NCP National Spokesperson and Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik said.
According to indications, Banerjee will arrive here later Tuesday and plans to meet several top industrialists to attract investments to her state, and invite them for the upcoming Bengal Global Business Summit in April 2022.
It was not immediately clear whether she would meet Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who is presently convalescing after a spinal surgery.
On a new high after sweeping the West Bengal Assembly elections last May, Banerjee is currently flapping her wings for a national political flight.
Last April, Pawar was planning to campaign for Banerjee during the Bengal Assembly elections, but was unable to do so owing to certain constraints.
Both Pawar and Banerjee are keenly making efforts to engage the national opposition parties and provide a united fight to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Besides Pawar, the All India Trinamool Congress chief enjoys a great rapport with Thackeray, whom she has met in the past, though her relations with the Congress — the third partner in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government here — are strained.
Nawab Malik granted bail in defamation case filed by BJP activist
A Mumbai court on Monday granted bail to Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik in a Rs 100 crore defamation suit filed by Bharatiya Janata Party activist Mohit (Kamboj) Bhartiya.
Malik, who responded to a notice by the Mazagaon Magistrate Court three weeks ago, was granted a bail of Rs 15,000 and the matter has been posted for further hearing on December 30.
Last month, the BJP functionary had filed the defamation case against the NCP leader for allegedly defaming him by revelations that his brother-in-law Rishabh Sachdev was among the persons detained by the Narcotics Control Bureau after it raided the Cordelia Cruise on October 2 and was released later.
Bhartiya contended that the minister allegedly used his power and position to raise doubts and spread canards about the release of his brother-in-law, and has spoiled his image and reputation.
After examining the evidence provided by Bhartiya, the Magistrate ruled that prima facie, Malik’s statements at his media briefings on October 9 and 11 pointed at defamation and issued the process against him.
Interacting with media, Malik said that he had honoured the court notice and appeared before the Magistrate in the defamation suit filed by Bhartiya, but denied the all contentions of the complainant.
“We have also brought on record how Bhartiya himself is a fraudulent person involved in a scam of Rs 1,100 crore and the raids by the Central Bureau of Investigations on him. When the scam started coming out, he changed his name from Kamboj to Bhartiya, we have submitted all evidence to the court and will provide more later,” he said.
Soon after the ministera¿s expose, Bhartiya had sent him a couple of legal notices and when the allegations continued, he filed the defamation case against Malik before the Mazagaon Magistrate Court.
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