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Sunday, February 2, 2014

YOUR CITY NEEDS A MAKEOVER

TOI survey shows citizens are unhappy with traffic, roads, and feel the city is becoming unsafe for women


    Cities are living organisms. They take birth. They grow, they flourish. They breathe vibrancy. And they also decay. Mumbai is no different. It is a heaving, throbbing metropolis, evolving in places and declining in others. Every part of it is pulsating with activity and some parts are creaking under pressure. 
    TOI’s Mumbai Patrol survey captures impressions of this changing Mumbai by sketching its problems, old and new. It draws attention to the poverty of open spaces, concerns over safety of women, the over-crowding and broken seats on local trains, the queues on railway platforms, the rudeness of autorickshaw and taxi men, rash driving by bus drivers, and 

the need for carpooling. It reveals how severe these problems are, where they are concentrated, and offers an insight into people’s expectations as well as their perceptions. 
    In this survey can be traced the city’s shifting dynamics. In it can be seen the administration’s failures. And in it can be heard citizens’ desperate calls for better infrastructure. 
    The most desperate call seems to be for a solution to the traffic mess. In a city always on the move, traffic gets the least approval rating of 3.2 out of 5 (see graphic). The total length of roads has been more or less stagnant at about 1,940 km for a long time, but the vehicular population continues to increase every year by 8%. So far has the city travelled down this slippery 
road that, by one estimate, it now has 674 vehicles for every kilometre. The result has been ever-worsening jams. 
    A study some years ago pegged the average one-way commute time in Mumbai at 47.45 minutes, far more than Delhi’s 43 minutes and New York’s 31.37 minutes. The TOI-IMRB survey reveals that frustrated over snarl-ups, people want more flyovers and a bigger traffic police force. 
    The arduousness of journeying in Mumbai emerges as a dominant theme. Citizens complain about the terrible quality of roads. They bemoan the paucity of footpaths (which get a score of only 3.5), their poor maintenance and the rampant encroachments on them. They are upset with the uncleanliness on local trains and at railway stations. They protest about overcharging by autorickshaw and cab drivers. They indict the police and government for having little success in stemming refusals by auto and taxi men. Above all, they are worried about the insecurity they increasingly feel on the city’s streets. 
    Inner roads are seen as unsafe for women in nearly all parts of Mumbai. And in several areas, it is not just the inner roads but the main streets, seafronts, bus stops, railway stations — indeed, “all places”. After the horrors at Shakti Mills, many women in the area around Mahalaxmi feel the need to carry self-defence objects. 
    The survey, in essence, reflects the spiralling discontent in the city and the disappointment with services. It brings into focus the issues that have become blurred by dint of their everydayness and ubiquity. It holds a mirror to the good and the bad. And the bad, it shows, is getting the upper hand. 
    Mumbai’s slide into decay must be arrested. The survey is the first step towards doing that. 
    Tomorrow: Happy and Unhappy Wards

THE SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE CITY NEEDS TO BE CONSIDERABLY IMPROVED, ESPECIALLY SCHOOLS AND HOSPITALS. INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS LIKE THE METRO, FLYOVERS AND SEA-LINK EXTENSIONS ARE TOO SLOW IN IMPLEMENTATION. AN EARLY COMPLETION, AS IN THE CASE OF THE EASTERN FREEWAY, WOULD ADD VALUE. AND SLUM CLEARANCE NEEDS TO BE EXPEDITED BY HAVING PRACTICAL SCHEMES WITH HIGH FSI — ADI GODREJ


THE STATE AND CITY GOVERNMENTS NEED TO REAFFIRM THAT THIS IS THE FIRST CITY OF INDIA—IN THEIR OWN MINDS—AND AIM AT MAKING BOMBAY A CITY OF 
    EXCELLENCE. WE HAVE ALREADY SLIPPED IN TERMS OF INFRASTRUCTURE AND QUALITY OF LIFE. WE ARE ASPIRING TO BE ANOTHER STATE CAPITAL WHEN WE SHOULD BE ASPIRING TO BE THE PREMIER CITY OF INDIA 
— AABHA NARAIN LAMBAH


THE FACT THAT 70% OF THE 27,000 CRORE MUNICIPAL BUDGET REMAINS 
    UNSPENT AT THE 
    BEGINNING OF FEBRUARY, JUST TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE END OF THE FINANCIAL YEAR, SHOWS THAT THE BMC IS UNABLE TO TACKLE THE CITY’S PROBLEMS. THE POSSIBLE SOLUTION IS FOR CITIZENS TO GET INVOLVED WITH THE RUNNING OF THEIR OWN LOCALITIES AND TO BE ALLOWED TO DO SO BY THE MUNICIPALITY 
— GERSON DA CUNHA








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