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Mumbai's Tribal Population Struggles for Livelihood Due to Lockdown

Very few are aware about the habitat of tribals in Mumbai’s heart - Sanjay Gandhi national park, and they are in a crisis due to a lack of jobs.
Maumbai lockdown

Ganesh Bhoir from Ketlipada of Aarey colony in Mumbai sits idle at his home now. He used to go for work in Andheri but as Mumbai is currently under lockdown, Ganesh has nothing to do to earn a living. "Like last year, this time also we are without work, without money. There is serious question of survival. What will we eat if this continues for another month?," asked Ganesh. The question is not haunting only Ganesh but almost 10 thousand tribals in Mumbai. A year on, the lockdown has again made them helpless.

Mumbai is the financial capital of India. But very few people know the tribal habitats in Mumbai. There were total 222 tribal bastis (or paada, in Marathi) in Mumbai. But gradually, only 59 bastis are left now as others merged into the development of the city. Of these 59, total 27 are in Aarey colony, nine in Gorai area and remaining in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

Mumbai has been under lockdown for the second Covid-19 wave since April 14. This has enormously affected the livelihood of marginalised people staying in Mumbai. An estimated 10,000 tribals have also been hugely affected.

Prakash Bhoir works in Mumbai municipality's water department. He is also from Ketlipada, Aarey colony. As he is a government servant, he is saved from financial miseries that his fellow brothers and sisters are facing.

"The situation is so bad that people are surviving by fishing in Vihar lake. Some have grown vegetables in the jungle. They sell it in the morning time on the periphery of the jungle. But that's not the option for others. The lockdown has snatched work from many many people," says Prakash Bhoir.

The women from their tribal families used to work housemaids. But since the lockdown and the second wave, very few gated housing societies are allowing them to enter.

Mangal Kacharu Bhoye from Gorai village is one of those women who used to work as a housemaid. "The housing societies are not allowing housemaids, cleaning workers inside. Also there are many cases in the societies. So we are also not taking the risk to go to work. This has stopped our earning completely," says Mangal.

The Maharashtra government has brought a scheme to help such housemaids. But Mangal has not received anything till now. "Our organisation has given name and bank details. But we have not got anything yet," she says.

The state government has also announced food grains from ration shops for the poor. But that is not enough. "They are giving just rice and wheat. Is that enough for a person?" asks Anant Bhoye who lives in Gorai village. There has been a demand to provide at least onion and potato at the ration shops. Many organisations have been requesting the state government to start this. But nothing has happened on this front yet.

The scheme regarding monetary help to tribals is also under official process. The financial assistance of Rs 2000 per family plus essential goods worth Rs 2000 is supposed to be given under this scheme. But as the list of beneficiaries is yet to be finalised, the tribals have not get the money or the goods. It appears largely impossible for them to get on without assistance from the government.

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