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'If Chennai can use seawater to solve their water crisis, why can't we?'

Thursday, February 14, 2019
Photograph by Azad Shrivastav

Shadaab Patel – a renowned and distinguished entrepreneur in real estate development and hotel industry, has actively endeavoured himself in taking up social causes through Public Interest Litigations (PIL) for the public at large, from filing successive PILs on 'odd-and-even' formula for the city, pollution control, self-appointed cow vigilantism, desalination plant for city and farmers to tackle water crisis, job fairs for youth among others. SHADAAB PATEL talks to PHILIP VARGHESE on his PILs and various issues concerning the ‘Maximum City’.   

You have been a real estate developer by profession and now you are also a known activist fighting for cause of Mumbaikars. What made you take up cause of Mumbaikars through activism?
Earlier, me as an activist did not have much applications from Mumbaikars about their problems, as may be, causes were less and slowly when you are known people facing issues start turning up. After the government or the statutory authority is not performing their obligations and public not knowing their mandatory provisions on how actions should be invoked, they do come to us for help. Then, with my known counsels and legal experts friends, I give people free advice and we come to a logical end to their problem – it may be filing a PIL against the authorities or writing letters and seeking answers from the government on a particular public problem.

What kinds of problems are these that you feel is affecting Mumbaikars at micro and macro levels?
We have seen in the past five years on how many businesses have been affected. Small scale industries have gone down from bad to worst. And finally, some of these businesses have completely shut now. Recently, we also saw a cell phone service provider who booked a loss of Rs. 5000 crores in the quarterly financial year. This is sending a bad signal to the public. We have also seen 498 (a) cases wherein there are FIRs registered on ego clashes of husband and wife. Then we have to see that they come to some sort of a settlement because at end,  they are having small children, whose lives should not get effected by separation of their parents. My wife is an expert in handling such case by finding an amicable solution and joining up a family, instead of getting them divided which is our primary intention.   

How do you manage these public problems that you receive in such large scale?
Me and my wife – Fabiha Shadaab Patel are affiliated with more than 80 plus NGOs. There are people who directly come to us and there are some who contact these NGOs and we initially give them suggestions on what are the things that they are supposed to do. For example, if a person doesnt know the value of an orange coloured ration card, we explain and teach them about the Rs. 3 lakh leverage under the Rajiv Gandhi Yojana in various hospitals including the Seven Hills Hospital in Marol. Hence, a holder of this orange card is entitled to this relief even if he doesn't have an insurance. Most people do not know such basic medical needs, which we make them aware of.

Your PIL seeking to implement the 'odd-and-even' rule for vehicles in the city like the one implemented in Delhi, was appreciated by all.
The air pollution control of our city is very bad, though we are surrounded by sea. Delhi is having the air quality problem since they are not surrounded by water by any side. And in Mumbai, 80 percent of the road traffic is by private vehicle. And now, if those vehicles are brought down to half via the odd-and-even rule, you will have less traffic on the road. Today, a non-ICCU ambulance which is carrying a cardiac patient cannot reach hospital on time due to the heavy traffic woes in the city. Even at instances of fire during peak hours, we have seen fire brigade tenders being stuck in traffic which will lead to more casualties. Hence, I filed a PIL seeking to implement the odd-and-even rule here in our Mumbai city.    

But the traffic in Mumbai is completely different from the traffic in Delhi. Do you think this odd-and-even rule would be successful in our 'Maximum City'?
Even in Delhi, there are so many cars and herein Mumbai too, we have so many cars plying on roads each day. On the contrary, there the roads are broad in Delhi . Over here, the roads are narrow and congested. Now to put a cherry on the icing, the Metro work which has started in the city has created more mess for the traffic in the city.

You had also filed a PIL seeking desalination of sea water to tackle the annual water crisis faced by Mumbaikars. Is it practically possible to do it?
In my PIL, I had sought setting up of desalination plants like the ones in Dubai and closer home in Chennai so that our water crisis is solved forever. Our lakes in the city are providing water to public since centuries. And note it, that our population has increased. So the only way to deal with this situation is use of sea water. Our farmers would have been happy if we had started this project long ago not only in the urban areas, but also in the rural areas. If Chennai can use sea water to solve water crisis, why cant we? So I filed the PIL and the matter is there in the Bombay High Court.

One of the major problems faced by Mumbaikars is also of dug up roads where a road is dug up by various authorities under the pretext of laying electric wires or installing pipelines. Do you think there is any way out for this mess?
At instances, there are some roads which are dug up without valid permissions. The worst part is when authorities dig up roads during monsoon. There should be some embargo on the contractors to finish up with their works within a stipulated period of time. If not, fine them not just on papers, but also in reality.    

The problem of hawkers in the city is also a much debated issue. The government is not able to implement the Street Vendors Act. 2014. Where, according to you, lies the problem?
There is a hawking zone and a non-hawking zone. The courts have also given several orders on the hawking policies in the city. However, there are, at times, pressure on the statutory authorities not to take action against a particular set of hawkers. So, some sort of consideration is given at times. But in Bandra, where I stay, the Assistant Municipal Commissioner is taking lot of action against illegal hawkers.

You were recently appointed as the President of the Giants Group of Bandra. What are your plans for the organisation?  
I am very thankful to Shaina NC who appointed me as President and my wife Fabiha Patel as Vice-President. It is a very profiled NGO under the leadership of late Nana Chudasama. Lot of things are happening in NGO now and in future.

You were seen with Shaina NC during the Giants Group event and meanwhile, you were also seen with MLA Waris Pathan of the South Mumbai constituency. There is a strong rumour on social media and elsewhere that this is an indication of you joining politics. If yes, which party?
I feel like laughing on it. You are reaching to wrong conclusions. Giants is a separate thing and being friends with Waris Pathan is a completely separate issue. Waris is like my brother even before he was an MLA. Our friendship has not curtailed since then.

Why only a link with MLA Waris Pathan?
Waris Pathan is a Bandra boy just like me and he still stays there. We have grown up together. But, I don't know why people are making an issue out of it. He has done a great job in his Byculla constituency and I have given him my advice to contest Lok Sabha elections, as people want him in centre. His popularity amongst the masses is phenomenal, for the hard work and issues he has resolved flawlessly. I am highly impressed with his work for the masses at large.

Recently music director Nadeem Saifi was seen praising you for your social causes on social media?                   
I am very thankful to him for appreciating my work. I am his biggest fan for the beyond the next-level melody he has created in past decades. I pray to 'Allah' soon he will be back with blockbuster hits and melodies, which have evaporated in todays Bollywood music. Even his billions of fans are requesting him to come back and I am one among them.

You recently came up with the job fair at Rizvi college where thousands of youth attended. What made you to plan such a fair?
There is no proper coordination between companies and the educated youth. In western countries, there is a proper designated government authority to provide jobs to the youth. There is no social security. With such huge unemployed youth in the country, we should have similar designated authority and their branches in every parts of city, which can provide details of which company has vacancies – not just in government offices, but also private companies.         

How does your family support you in your activism, even though you receive death threats?  
I do not worry about any threats. I just love taking up work of public causes. My family – my wife Fabiha and three daughters – Muskaan, Neymat and Raiqa are very supportive to my cause. Muskaan is doing her law and will soon assist me in my legal matters.

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