MUMBAI, April 23, (AFP): Farida Kachwala is vacating her family’s cramped home of eighty years, one of thousands receiving modern apartments through a project that hopes to transform Mumbai’s historic Bhendi Bazaar from a dilapidated ghetto into a slick Singapore-like enclave.
Six hundred million dollars is being spent to demolish hundreds of rundown low-rise buildings in the dirty colonial-era market and replace them with shiny skyscrapers that will house 20,000 Dawoodi Bohras, a sect of Shia Muslims, who have made the area their home for decades.
“We have many problems here. It’s smelly because there’s sewage and garbage everywhere and the wooden stairs are really steep and dangerous. I’m so happy that we’re moving,” says Kachwala.
The rehousing project aims to replace the decrepit structures and maze-like narrow streets, where hawkers sell everything from sunglasses to sweets as goats meander docilely, with gleaming towers and polished shopping arcades.
It is also hoped the scheme will help cleanse the neighbourhood of its underworld image. Dawood Ibrahim, who carried out the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts, lived in Bhendi Bazaar during the 1980s and Bollywood films often portray the area as a gangster hangout.
In India it is common for tenants to stall development projects by refusing to move, or for homeowners to hold out for more cash, but this project is unique in that it is being driven by residents’ faith as much as their desire for 21st century amenities.
Bohras, whose women wear colourful ridas akin to hijabs while men sport gold and white caps, are a Shia Islamic sect who follow a religious leader they call his holiness. They originally arrived in western India from Yemen in the 11th century.
Bohras often seek guidance from his holiness on many matters ranging from marriage to naming a child. The redevelopment was the brainchild of late leader Syedna Burhanuddin, who died aged 101 in 2014, a key reason why residents support it.
“Our families took his holiness Syedna’s advice and supported the project so we hope it will be good for everyone involved,” says Juzer Morbiwala at a transit home where he is being housed until his new apartment is ready.
Some 250 decrepit three and four-storey buildings known as chawls — originally built for single male labourers in the 1800s and where residents often share toilets — are being razed and replaced with 17 high-rise towers across 16.5 acres.
Three thousand two hundred families will receive new homes free of charge. Each will be a minimum of 350 square feet in size with private bathrooms and separate sleeping and living spaces.
Injured stalked by disability: The day after Nepal was struck by a devastating earthquake, Samrat Basnet opened his doors to the wounded as hospitals overwhelmed with thousands of victims had to send away those without life-threatening injuries.
Two years on Basnet is still caring for a handful of the 22,000 Nepalis injured in the disaster, many left with preventable disabilities after slipping through the cracks of a woeful healthcare system.
With just seven health workers for every 10,000 people, Nepal was grossly ill-equipped when the massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck on April 25, 2015, levelling whole villages and killing 9,000.
Small, impromptu clinics like Basnet’s picked up the slack. As patients were discharged from hospitals to clear beds, Basnet tended to their injuries on mattresses in his cramped office in Kathmandu.
But the hospital engineer never imagined he would still be their carer two years on.
“There are hundreds of times I thought I could have stopped this, I could have gone back to my normal life,” he said.
“But when I see these patients, I cannot do that.”
After the earthquake, a seemingly endless stream of injured poured into Kathmandu needing treatment.
Once patched up, the hospitals sent the injured away. Many had nowhere to go or were sent back to damaged homes where they could not receive necessary follow up care.
Afghans call for resignations: Afghanistan on Sunday observed a national day of mourning after at least 100 soldiers were killed or wounded in a Taleban attack on a military base, prompting angry calls for ministers and army chiefs to resign.
The exact toll from Friday’s assault in the northern province of Balkh remains unclear, with some local officials putting the number of dead as high as 130.
The assault, the deadliest-ever by the Taleban on a military base, underscores their growing strength more than 15 years after they were ousted from power.
Flags flew at half-mast throughout the country and special prayers were said for the dead.
The defence ministry gave a figure of at least 100 soldiers killed or wounded. It ignored media calls for a complete breakdown of casualties following the five-hour attack near the provincial capital of Mazar-i-Sharif.
But local officials including, Mohammad Ibrahim Khairandish the head of the provincial council, put the death toll as high as 130 and said about 60 were wounded.
Ten gunmen dressed in soldiers’ uniforms and armed with suicide vests entered the base in army trucks and opened fire at unarmed troops at close range in the base’s mosque and dining hall.
Ordinary Afghans vented their anger at the government for its inability to counter a series of brazen Taleban assaults, including a raid on the country’s largest military hospital in Kabul in March that left dozens dead.
“Mothers lost their sons, sisters lost their brothers and wives lost their husbands.
What is the government doing to prevent such atrocities, only condemning? I am so tired, I can’t do anything but to cry,” a user called Zabiullah posted on Facebook.
“The best way to honour them is to fire and punish those who failed to do their jobs and/or cooperated with the enemy. Some leaders must go!” said another user on Twitter.