MUMBAI: The most populous ward in the city, P-North, will be split into two, said the state urban development department on Thursday. No time-frame was specified for the division of ward, which has 9.7 lakh people living in Malad and the parts of Goregaon and Kandivli that constitute the municipal administrative ward, reports Vijay V Singh.
The division will not affect the boundaries of the 18 municipal electoral wards in P-North. The railway tracks will be the dividing line for the proposed P-East and P-West wards.
The government mentioned the division in reply to Kandivli MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar of the BJP, who had raised the question with the urban development department. A portion of his assembly constituency falls in P-North.
In their reply, officials of the urban development department said the decision to divide the ward had been taken but the BMC was still working out the split.
Around 70% of the 9.7 lakh population of the ward lives in slums. P-North has some of the biggest slum pockets of the city: Malvani in Malad (west) and Kurar village and Appa Pada in Malad (east).
Municipal officials said it is easier to handle smaller wards.
“Every ward has many departments within, each of them headed by a senior officer,” an officer said. “Each ward has a dedicated medical health officer who supervises all the health-related work in the ward. Big wards mean it is difficult for the MHO to maintain the required efficiency.”
During thick of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Appa Pada slum pocket was among the worst-affected areas in the city and municipal commissioner I S Chahal visited its congested bylanes and cheek-by-jowl structures for a ground review of the situation.
Bhatkhalkar said people had long been demanding the division of P-North ward. “It is difficult for a person living in a corner of Dindoshi to travel to Malad (west) for any civic complaint or work. Because of the bigger geographical size, it is difficult for the department heads to reach out to all areas,” he said.
Congress corporator and opposition leader in the BMC Ravi Raja said the division would be a very long process and would not take place before the BMC election next year.
“Around two years ago, the municipal administration had brought up a proposal to restructure the bigger administrative wards like P-North, L (Kurla), F-North (Wadala-Sion), F-South (Parel) and some others, but nothing was heard about it later,” Raja said. “Once the administration finalises its plan for P-North, it needs to take the mandatory permission from the general body of the BMC before its implementation.”
Congress cabinet member and guardian minister of the island city Aslam Shaikh said that 12 years ago, when he was in the BMC, he had made the demand to divide P-North into two because it is difficult for a ward office to keep tabs on all activities in such a big ward.
“Other bigger wards also need to be divided,” he said. “I am also pursuing the old pending issue that the island city and suburbs should have two separate municipal commissioners for better administration.”