Methi farmers have been working the sands at Versova Beach for over 50 years. Since being evicted by Mumbai officials, have they too returned home?
Feb. 23, 2020 - Mumbai. Group portrait of the last farmers holding onto hope that they'd be able to resume farming during ongoing talks with city officials.
I've been photographing the methi farmers at Versova Beach for a couple years. In my mind, they were a permanent part of that beach, like the sand itself. I'm sure they believed this too to some extent since there'd been a tradition of farming at this locale for five decades. But then came "progress" in the guise of the Coastal Road project. Discussions of progress aside, city officials decided that these farmers could no longer farm despite the fact that construction hadn't begun in their area (bulldozers and earthmovers had been busy a few hundred meters to the south). I can't say that I got to know all these people. There were some 300 or more people working the site, according to locals. But I did visit them occasionally, chatted with them too whenever any of them spoke a little English.
This was up until early 2020 - just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit India and closed everything down.
Once the methi plots were all cleared by bulldozer, a few of the migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh remained. They hoped, I'm sure, that they wouldn't have to make the long journey back home and presumably, where there were little, if any, jobs. Just their home "villages". They built makeshift shelters and kept watch on the sands they used to work. But now, I fear they've all left. I can only hope for two things. That if they did make the return journey, that they got home safely. And secondly, I hope to see them again if the tides turn in their favor once again.
A few video clips from my time spent with the methi farmers.