On a casual evening in Mankhurd’s Lallubhai Compound, the pavement separating the set of 65 buildings serves as a market for the residents and the tenants of the area – fragrant flowers, dried fish, biscuits, chocolates, and toiletries – the pavement is pretty much a one-stop destination for shoppers, mostly women. However, within a few hours, as the sun sets, the bustling market allegedly turns into a den for the neighbouring youth, who, the locals claim, peddle and consume drugs besides engaging in other nefarious activities.
“The entire compound has a very negative image. Even today, when I talk to people outside my neighbourhood, I prefer telling them that I live in Elphinstone and not here,” states Aniket Govekar, 21, a resident of Lallubhai Compound.
Govekar along with his family was compelled to move out of their Elphinstone-based chawl in 2007, which was razed to erect a sprawling glass structure. “We were told that we would be moving into a building and were promised a better life. However, we do not even have basic amenities at Lallubhai Compound, making this entire space merely a vertical slum,” rues Vinod Narkar, 27, whose family was also forced to move out with the Govekars. “We get water for only ten minutes every day,” he adds.
Aniket and Vinod are a part of the ten-member group that is undertaking a social audit of the ‘infamous’ resettlement colony under the aegis of the Youth Movement for Active Citizenship (YMAC) project. With 65 buildings in total, including the five-storey and seven-storey structures, the compound is home to approximately 70,000 tenants and 36,000 residents.
Making their way through heaps of garbage strewn across the street, the youths walk on the railway track to get to the Mankhurd station. It is this everyday experience that they first intended to chronicle as a part of their research project. “For several weeks, the garbage collected from the households across the compound remains dumped around the pavement. Even the sewage line is most often choked and emits a strong stench,” says group member, Prathamesh Pawar, 16, a class 12th student. “We thus decided to focus only on the lack of cleanliness in the area.”
However, over a series of workshops at YMAC with resource persons, the group members picked up skills to engage with people, to help them broaden their understanding, and extend the scope of their research topic.
“We began to open our eyes and ears to the entire neighbourhood. We realised that cleanliness was a part of the larger scheme of experiences and problems that the locals faced,” says Aniket Dasgaonkar, 19, a student of Ruparel College. “There is a deep-rooted anger and dissatisfaction that the locals continue to experience. This was born and has been reared on account of a complete neglect by the authorities,” he adds.
Armed with the resolve to dig deeper into the very root of the problem, and in the process, engage and interact with the locals, the motley group of ten friends hopes to create awareness and advocate change in their neighbourhood.
“It is very convenient to pass on the buck to others. Thus we, as a group of ten friends, who met with a similar fate back in 2007, have taken it up on ourselves to change the image and thoughts that are associated with Lallubhai Compound,” says Pratik Savinkar, the youngest member of the group.
This post was originally published here.