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'Some BMC officials do not allow us to function as corporators'

Thursday, August 02, 2018
Photographs by Santosh Gupta

After losing two Municipal elections, Rukshana Siddique confidently faced the 2017 Municipal Election and of the 29 Muslims who were elected as corporators from across the city in 2017 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation election, 18 were women.

She won the BMC election from Ward 136 in Govandi slum pocket on a Samajwadi Party ticket – an area which has been long neglected by the BMC on various issues but the land is now seen as a beacon of hope for residents living in transit camps and other places. Siddique will also lead a massive protest against potholes tomorrow.

Rukhsana Siddique, one of the 18 women who won the BMC 2017 election had a interactive session with Prachi Sonawane on various current issues faced in the locality as well as the city as a whole

What are the problems faced by residents of Govandi?
I feel Govandi is the centre of the city, but is treated as a rural village. This area is composed of a whole lot of slums and people who live here hail mostly from below the poverty line. There are no proper sanitation facilities given to the residents by the BMC. From past years, 50 per cent death rate has increased compared to other areas in the city due to massive pollution.

Govandi is a highly polluted area of the city, it has dumping grounds, many chemical factories due to which residents are suffering immensely. In the last budget, I made a point about changing the main  drainage line of the area, main drainage line here is of fiber, when some resident  take an unauthorised tap line out of the main pipeline, due to which the fiber pipe burst and drinking water gets mixed with  internal drainage water, because of which people here are suffering from various diseases, skin issues, TB etc. If the BMC changed the main pipeline into a steel pipeline, the issues which are being created creating due to water will be avoidable. BMC should do something,because here residents lives are in danger. BMC should do a proper waste management separately for the both east and west Govandi residents. My ward faces major  health issues because of the Deonar Dumping ground and slaughter house is near, due to which BMC waste segregation  trucks move through my ward, which creates complete chaos and immense pollution.

What initiatives are you  taking as a Corporator of the area, to overcome  all these problems faced by residents?  
As a corporator, I have to work for my area but the problem is that  some BMC officials don't let us to do our work. If we take any initiative to get work done in our way, then some BMC officials start creating problems for us. Some BMC officials do not allow us to function as a corporator. But then we are trying our level best to educate and spread awareness amongst the people. We continuously address the people to keep their surroundings clean, to have proper sanitation and to maintain their health.

In the last standing committee meeting, BMC said that the potholes issues in the city will be solved by July 19, so what is the current situation of  potholes in your area?
Yes,the BMC had started the work of potholes in the area but still their cold mix did not fix the potholes of the area. The workers  who look after the potholes, work on a temporary basis, so they complete their work in just five days after which, if the heavy rains start, it washes off all the cold mix over the potholes.
In our area exactly same thing had happened for which we had protested. Because of potholes the traffic gets stuck, due to which many accidents and chaos happens, to avoid this chaos and after taking a lots of efforts our MLA Abu Azmi had now succeded to get road over bridge in the area to avoid the traffic chaos .

What is your view about the plastic ban which was implemented a month ago?
I think, plastic ban is totally failed idea because,the BMC has not given any alternative till date to the retailers. Due to plastic ban many ragpickers are facing problems, as their livelihood is based on plastic which they collect.  BMC should have thought about the needs of the people while implementing the ban. In foreign countries, there is no need of plastic ban because they have constructed their drainage system in a such a way that not even a single plastic could effectively choke the drainage pipeline.

So we should also implement such kind of idea to get rid  of the plastic, banning plastic is not a solution. I think if BMC had implemented ban on plastic, the ban should be on each and every plastic product. Not even a single Mumbaikar can afford Rs 5,000 cash as a fine amount. In the last House meeting, all the 227 corporators have asked to reduce the fine amount because technically no one could afford it, so let's see what action BMC takes. Plastic ban is similarto demonetisation which had happened in a day with no prior information about it.

According to you what are the initiatives BMC should take to overcome the problem of waste management faced by the residents?
On this I would like to share my experience. Recently, I visited Kerala with the Praja foundation, I was shocked to see that there was little to no pollution,  the Municipal Corporation there has a limited budget, unlike in BMC we have  budgets in crores, but still here in Mumbai, roads are not good, sanitation is not proper, there is no proper rehabilitation for the slum-dwellers. Even here BMC takes action only when crisis happen. In Kerala, for waste management, they have recycling machines in their own premises, so waste is recycled in their own premises only,  although the population is low and the budget of the municipality over there is also low but then too they have managed to keep their surroundings clean.

Tell us about your childhood?
I was born and brought up in Malad. I did my schooling in Urdu medium. From childhood, I liked to do social work. So from childhood I had decided to be a social worker and do some good deeds for the society. Now, after winning the municipal election of ward 136, last year, I have shifted to Govandi with my husband. So, from past one year I am living in Govandi.

Who is your role model?
My mother is my role model, because of her, I decided to become a social worker. From childhood I have observed her, how she used to help poor people and that is what encouraged me the most to became a social worker.

How does your family supports you?
My husband is my strength, because of his motivation and guidance, I can dedicatedly do my good deeds for society.

What is your vision, how do you see  Govandi in future?
Govandi is the most sensitive area in city, residents of Govandi elected me, so this is like my home. I feel Govandi should be clean in terms of all pollution aspects, the drainage system, waste management and proper sanitation should be effectively used  by the residents,  for which we are working steadily and will take whatever efforts are needed.

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