What we want from our future MP: Observations of a student from Mumbai’s Kranti Nagar

Our MPs should implement policies which will help people in the informal settlements at large and address critical problems.

Everyone in Mumbai is eager to know who their MP (Member of Parliament) will be in the next few weeks. And so am I. I’m Anmol Tiwari I’m from Natraj Chawl, Kranti Nagar, Kandivali East Mumbai. Kranti Nagar is located on the periphery of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Borivali, on the slope of a hill.

While in other parts of Mumbai, when one looks out of their window, they see the ocean, highrises, green spaces and more, in Kranti Nagar, I open my windows to see narrow lanes, congested houses, a mix of greenery and garbage. 

As elections get underway, I am reminded of the day when a candidate came to our neighbourhood, few years ago. They spoke to my family, even touched the feet of my mother. 

This is a common practice among politicians to visit before elections, make promises and meet people. But today, the attitude towards politics in my area is rather pessimistic. People don’t seem to think the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and new MPs will bring much change. 

This might have to do with the ways, in which we are taught about politics in school, as well as the lack of commitment among politicians to keep promises to the people in the area. Whether it is MPs, MLAs or local corporators, every one seems to have neglected our conditions.

Problems with our education system

I have completed my 10th standard Board exams from a private school in my area.

Often school teachers only teach in the lead up to exams rather than throughout the year. This impacts studies of many students. Because of this, our learning is also deeply affected as we are only encouraged to think of education as success or failure in exams. The future MP could try to address these gaps in our education system via teacher training sessions, curriculum redevelopment, and more. 

In addition, political education in school is rather limited. We mostly learn about the different roles and rungs of the government authorities and bodies. In a civics class, we are taught the responsibilities of an MP, we are taught about their position in a democratic government.

However, the work done by previous MPs, the quality of their work, analysis about implementation of promises, are not taught in school. We are taught about the different ideologies of political parties. However, we are not taught about how parties follow these ideologies today.

Read more: Growing up in an informal settlement in Mumbai

Overall perception towards politics and MPs

Even in Kranti Nagar people are pessimistic about the future MP and politics in general.

In an ideal world, politicians, that is, our elected representatives, work for the people and listen to them. But I have often heard people speaking of politicians as powerful people with a lot of money. If you actually study the present situation, the reality is far from ideal.

My own parents would hide talk of politics from me, as they felt it was a world full of corruption and powerful people. They don’t want me to get involved, seeing it as a place of unnecessary conflict. However, politicians need to hear the demands of the people, and so observing politics, having opinions on it, and analysing the work of politicians is essential. I believe we should engage with our elected representatives – MP, MLA and even corporators.

Hutments in an informal settlement on a slope amidst garbage
The absence of garbage collection by the BMC in the area is hard to ignore in the monsoon, as the rain washes the trash down. Is this a problem our new MP can look into? Pic: Anmol Tiwari

During election time, many campaigners and candidates arrive at our doorsteps, telling us about what they will bring to our area– how they can help improve civic services and conditions in our area. They ask us for our opinions, but I often feel that they rarely listen. Only when election season arrives, do they seem to complete work that has been left vacant for the past five years of office.

For example, there is a road behind a school, which existed long before I arrived at Kranti Nagar. The road has been intact for years, used by people without much problems. Yet, in the build up to elections, workers have been doing the road, though there is no demand for it.  

While at the same time a garbage dump that exists on that very same road, which many have been asking the government to clean, lays there, mostly unattended. It is contradictions like this that often lead to distrust towards politicians in our area. 

Read more: Electing an MP: What do you consider before you vote? 

Urgent issues that our MP could address

Among other issues that need attention from the government, is a ground in our area where I practice my football. A large part of that ground has been closed off, for cricket players. Opening this ground for young football players like me to play in the area could help us. It will give us an open space to practice in. I am not sure if an MP can solve this problem, but the issue of open spaces is crucial.

Another major challenge for us is monsoons. Every time it rains, the floods mix with gutter (sewage) water, which leads to a number of illnesses in my area. I always see people getting fever during spells of rain in my area. If the MPLADS funds of our MP could be used to provide health facilities and waste management, it would help us a lot.

Abrupt demolition and relocation to SRA buildings is a key issue, causing fear and insecurity among residents in the forested areas. Pic: Anmol Tiwari

One of the biggest threats to our peace of mind, is the ongoing demolition of houses located in the forested areas of Kranti Nagar. People’s homes are demolished after warnings, and these families have to move to SRA (The Slum Rehabilitation Authority) buildings located quite far away. They are moved away from the people they have grown up with, and even the greenery that they are accustomed to.

I have noticed that many fear their houses are going to be demolished any day now. One of my friends lives in forested land, and is constantly afraid of her house getting demolished. She too just completed her 10th standard, and fears that she will be lonely in the SRA building. She tells me that she will miss the trees and greenery she has grown up with. 

Housing for the poor is an important issue that every MP deals with in Mumbai. I hope our future MP takes up the issue of displacement of people.

Appeal to our future MP

We are not able to communicate our fears and worries to our elected representatives – be it our MP or MLA. Breaking down a house isn’t just a physical phenomenon, it breaks people emotionally.

A home is not only a concrete structure, it is home to the people and countless memories. It made of unimaginable efforts of people. When the JCB or the Forest Department tells people to leave their homes or threatens demolishing, people become afraid of the authorities, rather than trust them to look after their needs. 

I would really like our future MP, to understand our lives and help us to alleviate our problems for a better tomorrow.

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