“Library with books? We have moved into the digital age in 21st century. Even we senior citizens read things more online than in books. And then they plan to make toilets with it. Do they seriously think that making toilets inside a park is a sensible idea? Both are unimaginable for us,” says a senior citizen living in Sector 17, Vashi.
Perhaps Navi Mumbai’s elitest sector, the ward’s citizens, specifically senior citizens are up in arms against NMMC and their local corporator Dayawati Shewale for planning to build a Senior Citizens Recreational Center inside the only park in the Sector. Ward 63 Sector 17 in Vashi is known to house educated citizens and retired professionals who have worked as scientists and noted engineers with the government of India. The main protest against the plan is coming from them.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT?
The NMMC is planning to build a recreational center for senior citizens inside the late Meentai Thackeray garden. It’s a part of a city-wide initiative under which, senior citizens homes have come up across all nodes in Navi Mumbai.
Date when work commenced : The work started in Nov 2019
Contractor : M/s So Best Services
Time period to complete work : 5 months
Cost of work : Rupees 27 lacs 46 thousand 80 Rupees
SENIOR CITIZENS QUESTION LOGIC OF CUTTING TREES AND BUTCHERING OPEN SPACE TO BUILD A CONCRETE STRUCTURE
As soon as work started senior citizens started opposing it. One resident who we caught walking in the garden said, “the immediately opposite buildings that were getting fresh air is going to stop. We have no idea who approved it but we are writing to NMMC as a group of senior citizens to stop work immediately. We don’t want a recreational center inside our only garden.”
Another senior citizen added, “The building opposite this is Vigyan that houses retired scientists and senior officials of government. They are inconvenienced and disappointed hugely due to this work. The aim of a garden is to get fresh air and spend time greenery. I have seen senior citizens leave homes and come here and read newspapers in the morning to get the feel of being with nature and fresh air. Why would they want a A/C room to read the newspapers inside the garden?”
CITIZENS DISAPPOINTED THAT THEY WERE NEVER CONSULTED ABOUT THE PROECT
All citizens who spoke to NMTV unanimously opposed NMMC for not taking them into confidence or seeking a feedback from them before building the center inside the garden. “We are never asked or consulted as tax paying citizens of the Sector before constructing it. There will be toilets and we fear it won’t be maintained creating hygiene issues. We have opposed it in the past now it’s being made forcefully. This is fraud in the name of giving amenity to senior citizens,” voiced another grieved senior citizen.
CITIZENS FEAR CORPORATOR DAYAWATI SHEWALE WILL RUN HER POLITICAL WORK FROM THE CENTER
Citizens voiced fear that in the name of a center for senior citizens their corporator Dayawati Shewale will run her political office from there. “We fear that this will be used by local corporator to run their political office from the same center,” said a citizen.
CORPORATOR DAYAWATI SHEWALE REMAINS MUM WHILE HUSBAND SAMPAT SHEWALE REJECTS ALL CITIZENS’ CONCERNS
Like has been a precedent in NMMC, women corporators are often puppets of their husbands. So it did not come as a surprise that when we contacted Sector 17’s local corporator Dayawati Shewale she refused to speak to us but her husband former corporator Sampat Shewale spoke on her behalf. He rejected rumors that a toilet would be built at the center. He said, “There won’t be toilets that will be built here. Only a library will be built where we will keep books, newspapers, TV. This will be availed by senior citizens for sure and they will appreciate it when it’s completed.”
He also refused speculations that the center would be used as a political office, saying that “We already have 3 public offices in the sector. We will work from there. A Public Relations office from this center is out of question.” In regards to past protest to concretize any portion of the garden, he said that, “Past protests were politically motivated. We won the elections post it with thumping majority.”
A citizen of the ward however added, “They switched from NCP to BJP knowing that Sector 17 believes in Prime Minister Modi’s leadership. The win had nothing to do with the Shewales work record. And if tomorrow they do run a political office from here, there is nothing anyone can do.”
NMTV VIEW : It’s unfortunate that in an era of digital advancement and demand of more accountability of every penny spent from tax payer’s money, NMMC and its corporators continue to commercialize the city’s green spaces for palm greasing of one of the most corrupt corporator-contractor-official nexus. That too in a city where pollution has become a threat to lives and trees, greenery and open spaces are the only savior.