That changed in January. Kathpalia was in her home in Churchgate when two men fired gunshots through the front door, and Punj received several threatening phone calls; both women have now been provided with 24-hour police protection. Rattled but as determined as ever Kathpalia talks about Citispace’s work and Mumbai’s needs:
“We started 11 years ago. Citispace deals with policy and advocacy, and aims to empower people, providing them with information, guidance and other tools they might need, to fight their local battles. It also works as a network, informing and involving people in different local issues. With the exception of one architect, all the members are volunteers and the organisation runs primarily on the strength of individual citizen donations.”
Key Citispace projects
- Hawking zones: “One of the first issues we took up a decade ago was the problem of hawkers taking over public spaces. We discovered that there was an order that areas in the city were to be demarcated into hawking and non-hawking zones, but this had never been implemented. Citispace pursued the matter and tried hard to have the order implemented.”
- Open spaces: “We’ve been running a campaign to prevent public spaces like recreations grounds and parks being taken over by private entities. Why should public land be turned over to private clubs which restrict membership? That space is meant for the people. When the O.V.A.L trust – of which I am a trustee – restored the Oval maidan in Churchgate, people scoffed at us ‘elite women’, but my point is, it is only the so-called elite women who have the time and money to get involved in projects like this; I don’t expect a middle-class women who is struggling to keep her household together to have the inclination.”
- SRA: “A few years ago, Citispace tackled an SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority) policy that allowed developers to take over reserved open spaces that had slums on them. We went to court and got an order that said no further development could be sanctioned without the court’s permission.”
Why were you attacked? How do you feel?
“Our campaign against the SRA scheme has, naturally, upset many builders. But what can we do now, the matter is in court, and it’s up to the judge to clear redevelopment projects.
I am angry, not just for Neera and myself, but for the city. I am angry at the loss of my liberty and that justice is being toyed with. Our families are shaken but our work must continue.”
What does Mumbai need?
“People need to be alive and alert. They have to push the government to realise that the middle class cannot be taken for granted. We have to think ‘what do I do’ and participate. There is no pride or vision for Mumbai. It must not be all about money; we need a balance, the rich or the poor can’t stay in ghettos.”
– Aditi Seshadri
To get in touch with Citispace, mail firstname.lastname@example.org