A flyover near Sanpada suburban railway station in the satellite township of Navi Mumbai is now home to those fleeing the drought from interior Maharashtra. The first to come was Kondabai Prakash Yashwant of Pimparkhed village of Nanded district.
The day Kondabai boarded a train to Mumbai and got off at Thane station, she got work cleaning a public toilet and stayed at the railway station. After five days, a female beggar told her about Sanpada flyover where there was promise of better work. Kondabai did not hesitate to go there. She would sleep at Sanpada railway station and be seen under the flyover during the day. She found work at a nearby naka (square) where people came and picked up daily-wage labourers. Kondabai did odd jobs and managed to earn upwards of Rs 150 a day.
In a fortnight, Kondabai was able to save Rs 1,500. She boarded a train back to her village and returned to Navi Mumbai with more people. Slowly, word spread to other villages around, and a steady trickle of migrants started coming. Some time ago, as many as 800 families from Marathwada made the journey. Soon the families had moved on along the Eastern Express highway to settle under flyovers at Turbhe and Thane. Datta Gaigu Mahajan, 57, and his wife Mangala were part of the influx. They now get more than Rs 300 a day begging at temples. “If you look for work,” says Mangala, “there is work.”
Once their day’s work is done, they are all back under the flyover. The women cook and the men sit around drinking alcohol. They pack their food and take it to the station to eat because there are too many mosquitoes under the flyover. “There are no lights. Our men are drunk, so we have to take care of ourselves. We are told that many rapes take place here, so all of us women stick together,” says Rukhmina Pandurang Ghodke, who has come from Jalna.