On June 20th 2013, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan inaugurated the lush, state-of-the-art; multipurpose sports facility, while Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) officials celebrated the successful completion of the new high-end establishment. The truth, however, is that the construction of this swanky sports complex is far from completion. Given the upcoming elections, both state and centre, this hasty inauguration does not come as a surprise.
Meanwhile, outside the Dharavi sports complex, around 60 protestors from the community gathered at the entrance, voicing their concerns on the current Dharavi Redevelopment Plan. Under the ‘Dharavi Bachao Andholan’ (Struggle to Save Dharavi) campaign, former MLA Baburao Mane and supporters of the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janta Party congregated in hopes of catching the attention of the Chief Minister. Non-violent and waving black flags, protestors claimed the provision of 300 square feet homes to Dharavi residents, a provision of the current plan, is unjust. Instead, they demanded that Dharavi residents be provided homes that cover 400 square feet area. All 60 protestors were arrested temporarily.
Since the Dharavi Redevelopment Plan was announced in 2004, ongoing political, legal and institutional conflicts have been playing out in the shadows. The Sports Complex in question is located near the Dharavi community Rajiv Gandhi Nagar and was constructed by the MMRDA, allegedly costing more than 23 Crores (a 3-fold increase in the initial budget proposed). During the planning process, the Dharavi Sports Complex was advertised as a facility that would benefit Dharavi, its residents, its youth and increase the livelihood options of Dharavi residents. Now, it is officially called the Mumbai District Sports Complex. With rumours of life membership being estimated between Rs. 1 lakh- 5 lakhs, it might exclusively attract customers only from the upper middle class economic section of Mumbai. Building this swanky complex in close proximity to Bandra-Kurla complex and other nearby offices is also reflective of the kind of customers the facility wants to target.
The sports complex covers 12,427 square feet — an area that was once one of the rare open spaces left in Dharavi where members of the community could socialize and let their children play; where locals could gather to celebrate religion and love, life and death.
These are some of the current open spaces in Dharavi. These spaces are no longer functional for recreational activities as they are crowded with parked vehicles, are unhygienic and are poorly maintained. Even so we can see children play and utilize the minimum space available for their recreation.
(For the past four years, the youth of the Bal Mitra Krida Mandal haven’t had access to the playground where the new sport complex is built. Known as one of the most popular football clubs in Dharavi, this group travels to Mahim everyday to practice their sport. Will the Bal Mitra Krida Mandal be able to return to their playground when the sports complex becomes functional?)
(Anuradha Narkar, stacking her various sporting laurels, started a youth sports group two years ago in Dharavi. She fears that the new sports complex will be exclusive and take away the only safe open playground for women in Dharavi.)
Could provisions be made to accommodate changes and development in these spaces so that they can be accessible and used by residents of Dharavi? Will the newly inaugurated sports complex cater to this population in Dharavi?