Elections ’24: Candidates discuss city issues at Mumbai Debate

On agenda: A bird park, busting drug menace, Dharavi redevelopment


Geetanjali Minhas | May 9, 2024 | Mumbai

#urban governance   #Mumbai   #General Elections  
BJP candidate Mihir Kotecha participating in Mumai Debate on Wednesday
BJP candidate Mihir Kotecha participating in Mumai Debate on Wednesday

With the financial capital of India readying to go for Lok Sabha polls in the fifth phase on May 20, a debate with the candidates was organised jointly by the Free Press Journal, Mumbai Press Club, Praja Foundation and the Indian Merchants' Chamber here on Wednesday. The candidates engaged with the audience to speak about issues regarding their constituencies and address issues faced by citizens in the dialogue – The Mumbai Debate – Election 2024.

Mihir Kotecha, the serving MLA from Mulund and BJP nominee from Mumbai North-East, promised to shut down two dumping grounds in Vikhroli and Mankhurd by the end of 2025. He blamed the Shiv Sena for sanctioning the Vikhroli dumping ground.

To cater to the increasing passenger load, Kotecha said that he wanted to get a railway terminus constructed near the Mulund station. He also said that he wished to start a Konkan Express to provide transport facility to the Konkan population in the region.

Kotecha, born and raised in Mulund who has  earlier served as the BJP's city vice president and party youth wing president, shared his plans to boost local tourism by constructing a cable car to the top of Mulund hills, where people can enjoy the view of Sanjay Gandhi National Park as well as the Tulsi lake.
He also said that a bird park is being set up in Mulund for which the BMC has appointed a consultant and designer with plans to execute work orders by August. Kotecha said he wanted to see the bird park operating in the next two years. Kotecha said the bird park will be the city’s second zoo after the Veermata Jijabai Udyan and promised it will be a world-class facility on par with Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park.

“This is an ongoing project, which I started as an MLA, and will pursue even after being elected as the MP from this constituency,” said the legislator.

This will be a new attraction not only for our constituency but for the entire city, as it's going to be a world-class facility on a par with Singapore's Jurong Bird Park. It will be the city’s second zoo after the Veermata Jijabai Udyan, Kotecha said.

Dispelling allegation by the opposition on land in Mulund being given for PAP-Dharavi Redevelopment, Kotecha said no land in Mulund was being given for this project. “Land sought by the Dharavi Redevelopment authorities was the Mulund dumping ground. Since the waste at the Mulund dumping ground will be processed for the next six years, no development project can be done there.”

Kotecha said he wanted a slum-free Mumbai and aimed to complete slum redevelopment projects in his constituency. “Modi government has never discriminated against citizens on the basis of religion. These development schemes are for everybody,” he added.

Kotecha also said that slum dwellers are the main labour force driving Mumbai. “Banks don’t fund slum rehabilitation projects. Big builders don’t want to work in slum pockets. Big hurdles are red tape and lack of finance.”

He also expressed his concerns on drug problem in Mankhurd area calling it a ‘drug hub’ and said he planned to make Mankhurd drug-free. He put the onus of sale of illegal gutkha and cheap drugs on his rival Sanjay Dina Patil the Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate from the same constituency.

Mahayuti alliance and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Anil Desai from the Mumbai South Central constituency, a loyalist of the Thackeray family, alleged irregularities in Dharavi Redevelopment Project and said residents feel redevelopment projected by the government is different from the plan that is being put up on paper.

Alleging that the government is focusing on the Dharavi redevelopment only because of its proximity to the Bandra Kurla Complex, Desai said the government is shifting people far away from Dharavi and they are deprived of their right to reside where they belong. He emphasised on upgrade of infrastructure with required public utilities like schools and hospitals along with separate working place near their residence. “However, details are not in the open. The layout plans should be shared with the residents” he said.

He called his constituency a mini Mumbai with diversity of communities. He countered the claim that Shiv Sena was struggling to attract votes from the Muslim communities, and said that the 1993 riots had changed the city and the riots stopped due to Balasaheb Thakeray’s efforts. “Different parties have taken up Hindutva in a different manner to play a political game, but their Hindutva is not what we have been fighting for. Balasaheb was Hindu Hridaysamrat and, according to him, the definition of Hindutva has always been nationalism,” said Desai, who is also a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Speaking on Dharavi Redevelopment Project, Rahul Shewale, the incumbent MP and Shiv Sena leader standing against Anil Desai in Mumbai South Central, accused the opposition party leaders and candidates of deceiving the residents. “Dharavi is my birthplace, and I understand that genuine residents desire change. They have grown impatient and seek transformation. It is crucial to clarify that the project belongs to the Maharashtra government, and not to Adani. This endeavour has always been my dream project and I am determined to see it through to completion,” he said.

Shewale, who aligned with the CM Shinde-led Shiv Sena following a party split, had clinched victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He addressed anxieties of Dharavi residents regarding potential displacement, and said that no legally residing individual would be evicted. “Dharavi residents need not worry. Our commitment is 'Sabhi ko dukan, sabhi ko makan aur chehre pe muskan',” he assured.

“As a civil engineer myself, I understand that allocating 500 square feet of area is feasible but it ultimately depends on the Floor Space Index (FSI) we are allocated and can utilise. Therefore, we can only commit to providing 350 square feet of area to the residents."

Shewale said that a new survey is underway to verify the eligibility of legal residents. Upon completion, design plans will be formulated, industries will be modernised, including Kumbharwada and leather industries. “We envision a new Dharavi, akin to the acclaimed Dharavi model during the pandemic. We guarantee that the Dharavi redevelopment model will gain global recognition,” assured Shewale, representing Anushakti Nagar, Chembur, Dharavi, Sion Koliwada, Wadala  and Mahim.

"Our recent decision to redevelop 33.15 hectares to relocate 16,575 slum residents from the Ramabai Nagar area by MMRDA exemplifies our commitment," said Shewale, speaking about collaborative efforts by agencies like MMRDA, Maharashtra government and BMC in slum redevelopment initiatives. He added that Koliwada Gaothan, Punjabi Camp in Sion, and Sindhi Colony in Chembur are also slated for development. He reaffirmed efforts to resolve obstructions and challenges faced due to legal proceedings and stop-work notices while initiating infrastructure projects like pumping stations and bridges connecting Mumbai with Navi Mumbai.



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