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'We spend our own money towards development work'

April 29, 2009

Insiyah Vahanvaty speaks to a cross-section of Muslims in Mumbai and discovered that the community, disillusioned by unfulfilled promises, has become indifferent to the so-called secular political parties.

Mohammad Javed, 23, runs a hand embroidery business at Cheetah Camp in the poorer section of Chembur, a northeastern suburb of Mumbai. Born and brought up here, his house is opposite the mosque. A staunch Congress supporter, he says, "Our party is for the Congress; we have been voting for them since the beginning. This year also I'm going to vote for Congress candidate Eknath Gaikwad."

However, he does acknowledge that despite having had Cheetah Camp's loyalty for decades, the Congress has not done anything for the locals. "Nobody has done anything for us -- we spend our money towards development work in the area. We try and keep the area as clean as possible, get water pipelines put in, etc. We know there's no point waiting for someone to do anything for us. Though all the plots are registered and we all pay rent, no work is done here."

"Even the gutters are open and filthy," he points out. "Most of us don't have the money to develop the area. For instance, the water pipe is only on the main road; to ensure supply to the inner reaches, we'll need to lay pipes going in -- all this costs money."

Javed has a list of demands that he wants to see fulfilled by the next government. "The first thing we want are bathrooms and toilets. Then we want the area to be cleaned up, and regular water supply."

"Another problem we have here, is that something or the other keeps happening here. Every few days, a 'terrorist' is caught here, which has given Cheetah Camp a bad name, and it is considered a dangerous locality. And each time something like this happens, development in the area stops. That is very frustrating for us."

"There are many small scale industries in Cheetah camp -- leather, hand embroidery etc. They have all been impacted heavily by the recession. But I don't think the government can do anything about that."

Photographs: Insiyah Vahanvaty.

Also see: The Great Indian Political Festival | India Votes 2009
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