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20 April 2012

'We wonder if Bhiwandi exists on Indian map'

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By Mohammed Wajihuddin


Mumbai: The new, four-lane, concreted road from Thane city ends in a narrow, maniacally jammed arterial road which divides the town into east and west. Electric wires dangle dangerously overhead and stray dogs forage in the heaps of garbage piled on street corners. Manoeuvering open manholes, past rows of rattling powerlooms and hundreds of humans perspiring near those machines, motorists heave a sigh of relief when they drive out of the town.
This is Bhiwandi, the textile town in Mumbai's backyard. The Muslim-majority Bhiwandi is a metaphor for stepmotherly treatment to a township. Despite an annual civic budget of Rs 602 crore and a daily turnover of around Rs 40 lakh, the town lacks in almost every parameter that defines a throbbing industrial township.


"We often wonder whether Bhiwandi exists on India's map," says Urdu journalist Akhtar Kazmi, who points out that though the town has the Bhiwandi Road Railway station, where long-route trains halt, it is bereft of the services of a suburban railway.


Adds advocate Yasin Momin, "To catch a train to Mumbai, we have to either travel to Thane (16 km) or Kalyan (10 km). We are tired of petitioning the government to link Bhiwandi with the suburban railway."


The civil court where Momin practises sits on a five-acre land that was inhabited by a military hospital during the British Raj. For years, lawyers and locals have been demanding its upgradation to an additional district judge court, but, Momin complains, the government has turned a deaf ear. "A writ petition on this is pending in the high court," he says.


For a population of over 700,000, there is just one co-ed degree college and a couple of women's colleges. "Those who cannot afford to study in Thane, Kalyan or Mumbai drop out to become mechanics, plumbers or rickshaw drivers.


The non-availability of higher and technical institutes throttles our boys' dreams," says Javed Farid, chairman of Aqsa Educational Society, which runs a degree college for girls in Bhiwandi.
The fact that it sent three MLAS, all belonging to the Opposition, to the assembly in the last polls, has worsened the government's apathy. And, say despondent denizens, the civic elections are not likely to alter Bhiwandi's fate.


(Courtesy: The Times of India)

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