‘Air India’ Privatisation Means We  Will Lose  So Much Green Large Space Also

air india

As one enters the Air India  staff colony in Kalina in Mumbai one is struck by the  large football field, a lovely sight right at the entrance.

The ground is now full of overgrown grass.  It is a very big complex with abundant greenery and   other very large open spaces.

With the  forthcoming  privatization we will  lose this vital space. It is these open spaces that keep Mumbai still alive, we can breathe. With more and more skyscrapers  coming up due to  anti people policies of the government  big heat islands are coming up.

It is not just  big grounds like Shivaji Park and Azad Maidan that are oxygen spots in Mumbai, such large housing colonies in the public sector  are. This fact is seldom realized. All these colonies need to be saved. May be some development may  be inevitable in the near future but it ought  to be held in check for the  survival of the metropolis.

That the residents of the Air India colony have been asked to leave within six months is obviously thoughtless, can one imagine the plight, getting admission to school  for kids can be one of the daunting tasks. There are numerous buildings, ground  plus two  storey structures with balconies with jaali.

The Kalina colony apparently has its origin in the Tata ownership days, at the other end of the colony is  a school where the board says it was set up in 1962, it means much before  nationalization. The school is now run by  the residents’ association.

Walking in the complex can be an absolute delight, it is so quiet,  the roads are a little too wide considering there is  very little  vehicular traffic. Very few people are visible. I asked a  girl resident taking a walk and she people are very much staying in the colony  though it looks deserted.

There is also a park for children with playing equipment.

On the other side of the road  is an equally pleasant  housing colony of  Indian Airlines. This too has a pleasant entrance. On the left is a big school with a large green  playground and in the front there is  a sprawling  maidan with a lot of grass. On the other side is a Buddha vihar and an Ayyappa temple.

Here the buildings, ground plus three storeyes, appear a little better maintained and painted  but as an exception one  is in decay and abandoned.

The disastrous effect of privatization of    public sector spaces with  public amenities is visible  in many places  if one cares to notice.

Last week  I went to the redeveloped, commercialised Mahim bus station  of the municipal  BEST transport undertaking.  A   24 storey building luxury  Kanakia Miami standing on the BEST plot  completely dominates the original  user and is an  eye sore though it is touted for its  luxury.

The luxury building was ready more than two years ago, the bus station  had remained closed several years earlier and in the last two years as well   and was inaugurated by  chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on August 7.

A month after the inauguration, the computerised system for bus operations here has not started working. There is no board outside saying the bus  station has opened.

There are   bus stops with shelter inside but without any information about the destination, not to speak of the route or other details.

The  stainless steel  bus stop design is as shoddy, anti people as  in other parts of the city .   Sitting on the narrow strip  of a bench  would be very uncomfortable during  long waits  for less frequent  bus routes like one going all the way to  distant Mira road in the western suburb.

The builder was supposed to provide staff quarters which are not there, there is specific mention of the obligation to build  these as I noticed in high court proceedings in the media. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/hc-go-ahead-for-mahim-bus-depot-revamp-luxury-tower/articleshow/65892562.cms

The original  four storey BEST administrative building is there, mercifully it is not demolished. But this redevelopment  has of course vastly  reduced the space of the original  plot and  there is just enough  space for buses to manage  entry from the S.V. road side and come out  on the road goes towards Mahim railway station.

There is a huge terrace   above the bus operation area which perhaps in the original plan was to  have been used for BEST use. Now,  the builder has used  it to provide all sorts of luxuries like  including a swimming pool.

A board at the entrance of  the tower mentions a facility of golf putting and a badminton court but  the swimming pool is not mentioned but it is there.

It seems all  the 34  apartments are sold out and the builder must have made a lot of money.  It would be worth finding out if he has paid fully for the land,  some other occupants of  such leased spaces have not paid their dues to the  public sector owner.

There are still many  large public sector undertakings in the country  with  lakhs of employees and  these can become a major force of resistance. Many of these undertakings  command thousands of acres of prime space. We desperately need to save the organisations and the spaces.

An  All India forum against privatisation has now been set  up and it is organising some  useful webinars I have attended.

During one webinar last week  Mr Shiv Gopal Mishra, chief of the All India Railwaymen’s federation, felt  the government has been talking about privatisation of  railways for years  but it has been able to do  little so far and we should not worry too much.

However, we should not take  the privatisation talk lightly.

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of a book on democratisation of  urban transport and governance

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