How Mumbai's most underprivileged ward is trying to help itself

“We still don’t have toilets, not enough drinking water, and rapes and murders happen almost every day. Nothing here has changed since 1962,” says Mangal Katreya, a representative of the CORO Mahila foundation which has been working with the TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) in the M-ward initiative.

But Katreya is hopeful about the M-ward initiative launched by TISS, which hopes to transform the lives of the people living in that ward with their participation.

She says many surveys have been conducted in their area, but she feels, that this project, named 'Transforming M east ward' is going to be different.

The most underprivileged municipal ward in Mumbai, popularly known as the M-ward, with an area that stretches over 52 km, will soon become India’s first model for People’s Planning Process (PPP) involving individual citizens, communities, NGOs, stakeholders, government and municipal organisations.

Located on the northeast edge of Mumbai, M Ward mostly comprises of slums and slum rehabilitation buildings. Reuters

A-five-year project that began as a mammoth data collection exercise on 28 November last year, has completed its first phase and is moving to the next. On Saturday, TISS announced that it will begin a series of community meetings and discussions with the objective of coming up with a comprehensive plan for the development of the ward. The plan will then be presented to the state government.

“The survey shows that are people live in the worst conditions in the financial capital of this country from many years, without any attention,” says Prof S Parsuraman, Director, TISS. The detailed report on the findings of the survey will be published on 20 December.

Explaining the procedure of the people’s planning initiative, Leena Joshi, project in-charge, says that it will begin with 50 communities and gradually be scaled up to the ward level. “The country’s five-year plan often ignores the informal sector. And when we are out of the plan, we are out of benefits,” says Joshi. This is the first time people will be involved in their own development planning.

Parsuraman says that by next year, he hopes they will be able to come up with sectoral plans. “The plan will be discussed with municipal corporations, people’s group and state administrative officials.”

Located on the northeast edge of Mumbai, M Ward mostly comprises of slums and slum rehabilitation buildings. According to the 2011 census, 85 percent of the ward’s population lives in slums.

Its Human Development Index (HDI) is the lowest in the city, at a meager 0.2. Healthcare is inadequate; the population per hospital is nearly 66,881. It also has the highest infant mortality rate (IMR) in the city — nearly 66.47 deaths per thousand births, where Mumbai’s average is 40 per 1000 births.

M Ward is also home to one of the largest dumping grounds in the country, the Deonar dumping ground. A number of chemical factories and refineries are situated in the same ward, leading to a rise in illness among the population. Many people affected by the city’s infrastructural projects have been resettled and rehabilitated in this area.

According to the survey of 20,000 households in M east ward, a whopping 38 percent had already given birth in the age group of 15-19 years, while around 16 percent in the same age group were pregnant.

Each block whether it is Vashi Naka or Govandi, does not have more than 2-3 health posts. More than 80 percent of the people either use public toilets or private paid toilets. Less than 5 percent have obtained some form of degree, while the majority has had no schooling or are dropouts.

As per the objectives of the project, the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) will be brought down by 50 percent in the next five years. In the education sector, the project is aiming at 100 percent enrolment in schools the reduction of the dropout rate by 50 percent in next five years. It is also targeting 100 percent immunisation and universal pre and post-natal care.

And the people of M-ward are already dreaming big.

Santosh, a resident from Mankhurd, believes that his basti can soon boast of IAS, IPS officers. And if all goes to according to plan, the dream of development may not be too far.

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