June 12, 2009- Day 3-
We decided to try a different time of working in the slums today just to see if there was any difference. So we reached there around 10:30 and worked for 3 hours. However, we ended up spending the first whole hour at the founder’s house. We met Shabana who’s Shakil’s wife. She’s a very impressive woman, whose family is from middle class South India. For the entire hour, I was engrossed in hearing the stories from an organizer’s perspective. She told stories of how Parivartan got started, how the smallest and the most obvious issues become the hardest to deal with in this particular community and how the current problems are just those extended from what they’ve been fighting for years!
Mumbai has been going through a transformational stage through the Slums Rehabilitation Scheme (SRS). However, every slum in Mumbai has a different experience. Sangam Nagar (this slum we’re working at) has been neglected for years from the Government. The reason, --- says, is because of the lack of the Government’s interest in this community. The current MLA was elected by bribing the locals with samosas and Pepsis, but is uneducated herself and doesn’t understand the need to take care of the issues. Hence, not only does she not show any interest in trying to solve the problems, she doesn’t know how to fill out the forms needed to liaison with the Government. All the money that comes in doesn’t reach the slums.
After years of fighting, Shakil and Shabana , finally got the BMC to start the first and only municipal school in the area. Before, the students had no place to study. This is the school where most of the students are enrolled. However, lately they’ve been having a lot of problems with no electricity and other facilities. Apparently someone stole the fans and messed up the wiring system. Now after trying to fix it, the government hasn’t been responsive.
Shabana says that at this point the biggest problem is working with the Government in a diplomatic way. They have been fighting for years for the smallest things like an actual community bathroom.
The rest of the day, we did some more surveys. Sriya came across a family with 9 children in a little cubby of a house while I came across a 23 year old man who’d graduated with a Bachelor’s degree. The children recognized us from the day before and followed us again. It felt really nice to see the familiar faces.