Provide infrastructure to  people, Not only to upper class

 BEST bus

 It is good that  Aditya Thackeray, Maharashtra’s young environment minister, found time during his visit for the  recent  Glasgow climate summit to study the working of London Transport organization. He noticed that London  operates 9000 buses, 75 per cent of them double deckers.

He  made the point during a conference on infrastructure  yesterday. He did no talk about the number of BEST buses being run in Mumbai nor the fact London runs so many buses despite its very  very dense  Metro or  tube rail network dating back to the 19th century. But his point can be a very good  focus  for demanding a more equitable  transport for Mumbai.  Though Mumbai needs more than nine thousand buses considering  the demand, it has  less than  3000 running and there is always the looming fear that our bus system is under attack though of late a few signs of hope are visible.

He also talked about providing footpaths and  refuge area for pedestrians, a subject seriously ignored by top  bureaucrats and  politicians obsessed with  the very costly  Metro railway network , completely unaware of its  negative impact.

He made the point during  conversation with  Rishi Darda during the conference organized by Lokmat  media group.

The trouble is  our politicians and bureaucrats  favour costly mega projects  and think  this is infrastructure  forgetting that  people need small local improvements which will cost very little money.

Subhash Desai, industries minister and  a sober politician of the Shiv Sena, went gaga over the benefits of the Mumbai Pune expressway saying how it opened up  Hinjewadi   information technology hub near Pune providing  employment to thousands in the IT information technology centre .  But the trouble is and he did not mention this is  it is  so badly planned it takes a long time to reach there amidst all the traffic jams. Most people use personal vehicles causing jams there  and  government is yet to learn the basics about the benefits of public transport.

Sonia Sahani, additional commissioner of MMRDA and in charge of the Metro rail project, also went gaga over the  Metro rail projects in the state ignoring the fact that  the Nagpur metro project is a total failure, more a source of  an entertainment ride and projects elsewhere as in Thane and Nashik are totally needless, irrelevant.

Bhushan Gagrani, urban development secretary, spoke of the need for the upcoming  new airport in Navi Mumbai but made no mention of the much more needed  inter state  and intra-state  bus depots.

Radheshyam Mopalwar, the chief of   MSRDC road development corporation now devoting his energies to the much touted   Mumbai Nagpur samriddhi  mahamarg highway  spoke of the great strides made by China and  South Korea in  highway construction. That is fine but again  the problem is  people’s real  needs are quite different,  they need  local, safe, walkable  road connectivity.

State revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat spoke about how  new technology is   helping improve  land records, registration for houses and  agricultural operations. Farmers  are now asked to take  photographs of their crop  produce and  digitally transfer them to the government  to give a good idea to the government about the likely crop production.   The trouble is  sinister speculators  who are now very active  can misuse the crop data for their own benefit.

Mumbai’s  municipal commissioner, the impeccably dressed,athletic  Iqbal Singh Chahal   claimed great benefits from the upcoming   coastal road in Mumbai with creation of   maidans as large as  central park in New York or   Hyde Park in London. But these parks are in the heart of  these cities, not  detached  spaces as these new sites will be. Also without a dense tree cover   these will be of little use  in a hot, humid city. That is one reason the  expensive  Banda reclamation promenade  along the creek is used so little. Besides, it lacks basic amenities for drinking water and  sanitation.  The government should have had the foresight   to acquire  textile mill and other  lands for big parks which are needed where people actually live. Providing such amenities  in some distant  area is not the best  solution.

Manisha Patankar Mhaiskar, environment secretary of the government, said  climate crisis was real and we need to inculcate green habits.

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of a book on public transport

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