In the past, the urban development of Mumbai had been greatly influenced by its development plans. With an eye on the elections of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) slated for early this year, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde is aggressively on the march to create a slew of facilities in Mumbai for the women. At the top of this list is the creation of washrooms and other welfare facilities aimed at creating a safer environment for women in the city.
In a recent meeting with Mumtaz Shaikh, the Right To Pee activist who has popularised this campaign for women in Mumbai, the representatives of the government sought her help to outline and execute their vision. The Right To Pee campaign is a joint effort by 33 NGOs who drew the attention of the BMC to the lack of free, clean, and safe public toilets for women in the city. Shinde is keen on reducing the huge disparity between facilities for men and women, thereby expressing his keenness to build public toilets for women across the city, said a source in the know of events.
The public toilets for women are in a dismal state with doors or latches missing with no running water or lights. They are also in dirty and filthy condition. In many places, the women’s public sanitation facilities are used as store rooms, despite the fact it is mandatory to keep them operational. The lack of public amenities for women comes with the lurking threat of sexual harassment or rape.
The government also plans to set up homes for destitute women, said a government source. This plan being worked out will come as a safe refuge for many women who are thrown out of their homes and have no place to go. The government plans to seek the advice of women leaders from varied fields to bring in an integrated outreach for the female population in the city. Once implemented in Mumbai, it will be implemented later in other parts of Maharashtra.
The Maharashtra government will launch its own housing scheme for those who do not fall within the ambit of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). The state government has started the construction of 3.5 lakh homes for those left out of PMAY under the Awas Plus Yojana. To be completed by March 2023, these houses will be handed over to the beneficiaries by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to sources, Shinde, who holds the Urban Development portfolio, is keen on strengthening the development plan 2034 by plugging the loopholes. Seen as a plan that will benefit the real estate developers, he is keen on more inclusions to ensure that it benefits the people. He has set in motion an outreach in the form of a letter to several crore beneficiaries of government schemes.
Speaking to Outlook, political researcher and analyst Suhasini Bhide felt that the needs of the growing population of women in Mumbai have to be addressed if political parties have to make gains.
She said, “The focus has shifted to the women to draw them away from Uddhav Thackeray. His handling of the Covid situation has got him a lot of support from women in Mumbai and Maharashtra. Getting them on his side is crucial for Shinde as he wants to wrest the BMC out of hands of the Shiv Sena headed by Uddhav Thackeray.
“Governments have a habit of forgetting then promises made for women’s welfare once elections are over. Hope this chief minister delivers his talk.”