When Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi took over as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra in 1995 it was just the beginning of a new era for Maharashtra as one of the most industrialized states, and especially Mumbai as India’s financial capital because the fruits of India’s policy of free economy and globalization (kicked off in 1991) had begun to be reaped. There was excitement all over, as foreign companies made a beeline to invest in India and Maharashtra along with Mumbai was expected to become a great developed region similar to cities or states in the so-called “first world”.
Political leaders were seen promising the citizens that Mumbai will become like Singapore and the Konkan region of Maharashtra will be like California. Today, 22 years after these promises were publicly made, successive governments of Shiv Sena, Congress, NCP and BJP have clearly not even been able to deliver even basic safety to the citizens of Mumbai. Citizens are now seen dying either in building collapses or stampedes that happen on overcrowded railway stations or sinking in floods that happen every year in the city. The question being asked by citizens is, instead of becoming the city of dreams, is Mumbai becoming a city of disasters and deaths?
Complete apathy by successive governments has resulted in Mumbai reaching this level. Politicians and bureaucrats have only looked at the city as the proverbial hen that lays a golden egg and exploited it by issuing limitless floor space index ( FSI) to developers and ignored the development of public infrastructure.
On Friday just ahead of the festive Dassera day 22 innocent people lost their lives at a railway foot over staircase in central Mumbai for no fault of theirs while the political debate kept focusing on whether the name of this station should be changed from Elphinston station to Prabhadevi to wipe off the Christian or British era influence. Neither the Shiv Sena nor the BJP which are in power now at the city municipality, state government and union government paid any attention to the urgent requirement of expanding or modernizing the bridges and staircases at all the congested stations in Mumbai despite the city giving crores of rupees of revenue to the railways every month.
The anger among Mumbai commuters spilled on media and social media in an unusual way. On Friday people were seen abusing the government and shouting out against over-ambitious projects like the Bullet train which is going to cost over Rs 88,000 crores, asking the question whether the government’s priorities are completely wrong?
Over 80 lakh commuters travel on Mumbai’s suburban network on central railway and western railway every day. Railways do not seem to be paying any attention to the woes of these commuters. Mumbai railway vikas corporation was formed many years ago and aid was also taken from the World bank for development projects but for years together nothing has moved. Most experienced media men and transport experts say that this disaster was just waiting to happen because of the overburdening of the system. Every year over a thousand people die in Mumbai on suburban rail network either crossing the tracks or falling from the trains, now people are dying even on the station without any fault of theirs.
Political leaders have been thinking and talking about making Mumbai an international financial centre like Singapore, Shanghai or Dubai but what we see on the ground is not a patch on any of these cities. The system must wake up and act or deaths and disasters will only grow in numbers in the coming years.
Over 80 lakh commuters travel on Mumbai’s suburban network on central railway and western railway every day. Railways do not seem to be paying any attention to the woes of these commuters. Mumbai railway vikas corporation was formed many years ago and aid was also taken from the World bank for development projects but for years together nothing has moved.
September 29, 2017:
Twenty two people have been reported dead and 32 (23 men and 9 women) have been injured in a stampede that occurred at the Elphinstone Road railway station
August 31, 2017:
Around fifteen person have been killed and fifteen including 2 fire officers injured after a six-storey residential building collapsed near JJ Junction in Pakmodia street, a narrow lane in the busy Bhendi Bazaar area of South Mumbai.
August 29, 2017:
Two toddlers were among at least six people who died after floods caused by heavy seasonal monsoon rains destroyed homes and disrupted traffic in India’s financial capital Mumbai
July 25, 2017:
At least 17 persons, including a 11 women and three-month old baby, were killed when a four-storied residential building crashed in Ghatkopar suburb of Mumbai.
- ROHIT CHANDAVARKAR