After a month of the tragedy, there is one prime issue that still needs to be catered to – sanitation.
Though the problem existed way before the fire, the accident even worsened the situation for women and young girls in Damu Nagar.
A wall that divided the slum from Mahindra grounds was demolished during the time of the tragedy as the fire brigade was unable to access the area. "All the women in our area would go behind that wall to defecate, which is wrong but we didn't have a choice," said Babita Gupta, a resident.
Now that the walls don’t exist and the mobile toilets that were allocated for a month after the fire have been taken away, what the women and girls in the community are left with is an open field. "After the fire, a small toilet was built down the road which requires us to pay Rs. 5 every time we visit, even if it’s to change the sanitary napkin. That’s more expensive than the napkin itself. We don't have that kind of money," she added.
Sunita Kale, a class 11 student says, "There are times when we go in the night to the toilet that is built way ahead – far ahead on the road that begins once we manage to go down this hill; it takes a long time to reach, but that's not the problem. There are men ogling at you from all directions. Some are even drunk. It's not safe to go there."
It is not hard to tell that there are more problems than just money, in Damu Nagar. Geeta Gupta, who once had an encounter with men who tried opening her toilet door shares, "It's impossible to tag along a male friend, a father or mother every time you need to use the loo. We need some place safe, only for girls if possible."
Another problem that the women are facing currently is the stone pelting that happens from the other side of the hill. “No one knows who throws the stones post sunset. But it happens at any given time. The area has become seriously unsafe for us to travel so much to access a toilet.”
The girls at the moment are using cloth as a substitute to sanitary pads, since they can’t afford napkin packets, and go out in groups to an open space in one corner of an unlit hill. "There are few girls, who manage to buy pads but majority of them use cloth as it's cheaper. Some even wash the same cloth and use it again," Babita said.
Bridge, a Mumbai-based not-for-profit organization that is working towards sustainable rehabilitation of the survivors of Kandivali Fire, will take utilize the funds raised on Milaap to find long-term solutions to sanitation woes of over 1500 women and girls of Damu Nagar.