February 13, 2017 3:22:23 am
It is a long, arduous campaign for 36-year-old Aamir Vakil, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen’s candidate for Ward 227 comprising Colaba and Navy Nagar. Having joined the party only two years ago, Vakil, a resident of Mohammed Ali Road, has a little over a week to connect with people, including a large number of irate slum-dwellers in Geeta Nagar slum. And this Sunday, the slum has seen its share of vote-seekers already — first Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray and then BJP candidate Makarand Narvekar. They came and left, but Vakil, not well known in the ward, chooses to spend the day interacting with the residents of Geeta Nagar.
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Kali Charan Gohar (48) and his nine dejected family members express their anger about the long standing issue of waterlogging at their doorstep, leading to frequent dengue outbreaks. Three members of the family are currently ill. “The Navy has a huge tank that overflows frequently, due to which there is always a stagnant pool of water at the entrance of our house. Despite complaining, BMC officials don’t come here and none of the politicians solve our problems,” he says.
Of the 43,000 voters in Ward 227, Geeta Nagar alone accounts for 4,500, including 10 per cent Dalits and 20 per cent Muslims.
Some residents, impressed with his earnest manner, promise Vakil that they will give the MIM a chance. “Before every election we ask the candidates to set up taps in our homes and construct toilets for us. But we are still struggling to get water every single day and the toilets smell so bad that we are forced to defecate out in the open. Everyone is promising water now but will soon forget us. We have no problems in supporting you but you have to help us,” Chabbi Jaswal, 70, tells him.
Another resident, Nasreen Shaikh, 42, points out the need for a steady drinking water supply and says women desperately need better sanitation. “Apart from the houses near the sea, nobody else can make make a toilet in their house. For everyone else, there are only four toilets. We have to stand in line for an hour and a half to fill water from one tap at 10.30 am every day. If you are able to arrange for taps in our houses where we get 10 minutes of water supply, we will happily support you. Not before that,” she insists.
An IT engineer by profession, Vakil is contesting in the civic polls for the first time and he has opened a party office deep within the slum to encourage people to walk in and discuss their problems. “I have been a social worker for several years in areas such as Andheri, Mohammed Ali Road and Parel where I have organised numerous medical camps. While I am contesting for MIM, I’m not like a typical political leader. I am still a social worker and my sole intention is to work with the people to improve their quality of life,” he says.
Vakil says the contrast in the standard of living in Geeta Nagar and other posh areas in Colaba shocked him. Promising to work actively with the residents, he tells them, “I can understand your frustration. All the young people of your area are working with me and I am here to stay. Give the kite a chance and see.”
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