Mission 24: A plan to uplift Mumbai's M-East ward

MCGM, Mumbai First, Apnalaya and various NGOs come together to launch Mission 24, a novel initiative aimed at working towards the needs of Mumbai's M-East ward that's reportedly been the most neglected in terms of human development indices

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Mission 24: A plan to uplift Mumbai's M-East ward
Sachin Tendulkar and BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta during the launch of Mission 24, an initiative by Apnalaya and Mumbai First, and supported by the civic body on Tuesday.

M-East ward stretches from the Mankhurd road going to Vashi, including areas on both sides of the road such as Chembur East, Govandi, Deonar, Baiganwadi, Shivaji Nagar, Gautam Nagar and Cheeta Camp among others. Spanning 3,819.71 ha, MCGM's 24th ward also lies at 24th position as far as human development indices are concerned, as per MCGM's DP data and HDR 2009.

Earlier this year, Apnalaya, which has been working towards the upliftment of the area since 1992 came out with its situation analysis report called Life on the Margin. Its CEO, Arun Kumar, says, "Initially, the corporation had issues with some data, but we explained that both our baselines are different. Based on 2011 census and due to under-counting, they planned as per a population of 8 lakh, whereas our research shows 12 lakh. They finally came on board and realised provisions need to go up accordingly and Mission 24 was born."

In the past few months, Mumbai First has also been instrumental in getting things moving. The idea behind Mission 24 is to have needs addressed over the next 24 months. It was formally launched on Tuesday at the BMC headquarters with an introduction by Mumbai First’s CEO Shishir Joshi, a backgrounder by Apnalaya’s Arun Kumar and Anabelle, and a supporting speech by Sachin Tendulkar.

Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta laid emphasis on the fact that things needed to change and said, "we will do it, but we need the cooperation from all." He also explained the aim, saying, "Our priorities will be educational institutions (increasing numbers and quality); more and better infrastructure for primary healthcare and women and child healthcare; sanitation; and decentralising waste management to reduce burden on Deonar dumping ground. It will not only reduce carrying costs, but will also reduce environmental load and food wastage." In attendance, and keen to participate, were Pratham's Farida Lambay and representatives of several other NGOs.

Sachin Tendulkar

Figures of the human development indices disturb me...Mission 24 is surely a step in the right direction. As an ambassador of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, I also want to encourage change at the grassroots. In sports we say, change mustn't be only on-field, but also off field. It will not happen overnight, but with persistence, discipline and commitment, nothing is impossible.

Apnalaya will largely look into education and healthcare. "Our past efforts have born fruit – malnutrition has dropped from 61% to 46%; in 2010, institutional delivery has gone up from 60 per cent to 90-95 per cent, etc. But though school enrolment has gone up, due to several factors like the fact that ward has just six government secondary schools for 1,14,000 students, the drop-out rate is constant. So we're asking for one more. The corporation's DP plan and ours have some overlaps, such as a college, maternity home, health posts, etc. We're hoping they'll give the go ahead for those. We've offered to advice, help with on-ground monitoring and producing quarterly reports, and supporting in execution wherever required," shares Kumar.

Mumbai First's role on the other hand will be more collaborative. "We are bringing together different stakeholders, corporate funding as well as ideation and policy matters, which is our strength. Our first priority will open spaces – for which we've got onboard Ashok Dattar. We're thinking that besides turning them into playgrounds, they could also be community centre – and transforming movement around stations by beautifying and making railway stations pedestrian friendly. It's important for the locals to start feeling the change".

Some funds will come from the development plan budget and the rest will have to be raised. The project is time-bound, yet not. "We'll use 24 months for infrastructure building, but upgradation is going to be life long," Ajoy Mehta signs off.

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