Not in my backyard
16:23 July 25, 2011
The recent media report highlighting the plight of Peddar Road residents opposing the building of flyover is interesting. There was a public meeting convened where apparently the citizens of Peddar Road were roughed up by ‘NCP workers’. The meeting was convened to discuss the pros and cons of building a flyover in an area where the rich and the famous have their apartments; the famous citizens of Peddar Road include “The Nightingales of India” –Lata Mangeshkar & Asha Bhosle.
This blog is neither about the event per se nor about the activities of the NCP but rather about two parallel universes existing in our country; one is Bharat and the other is India. The media, the policy makers and the public at large seem to treat the two as separate entities. Most of the flyovers in Mumbai are very close to the houses and when you are traveling you can see people at close quarters drying their shirts and ganjees on the balcony. Noise levels in these apartments are also high. I spent some years staying in a house next to the highway near the airport. Over a period of time, I had got used to the noise but in the beginning it was awful. But then noise pollution is there is almost every part of Mumbai. If not the noise of traffic and then it will be the noise of music, the morning call of the mullah or the ringing of bells of the temple or the noise during all the Indian festivals. In India, there is a festival every day. So one gets used to the noise. This was wonderfully portrayed in Pushpak – a silent movie.
JJ flyover is built very near to the houses. Sion Flyover also passes very close to the houses. And forget flyovers; look at the skywalks. The one that passes through Grant Road station is also extremely close to people’s residences. So I don’t know why so much noise made by the Peddar Road citizens because a flyover is coming up. I am sure they too use, if not the Sion flyover, definitely JJ flyover. Most of us suburbanites get caught in traffic jams while going to South Mumbai so why not a solution to the problem? Since the rich and media savvy people stay in those parts, they will also write articles and influence media and give alternative solutions like coastal roads, etc. The same set will in comfort of 5star bars moan and wax eloquently about lack of infrastructure in India and traffic problems in Mumbai.
This is like finding problems to solutions and not solutions to problem. If no flyover in Peddar Road, then why should there be flyovers and metros in North Mumbai? In India, the bigger issue or bigger challenge is lack of urban planning. The best example is the termination point of the iconic Worli Sea link.
Yesterday’s Mumbai Mirror also carried photographs which clearly showed that VIP roads don’t have same features as normal roads – potholes. It is not that all taxes are paid only by VIPs.
It’s a touchy issue but somehow I feel that entire post 26/11 protests and candle-light processions were more than usual because the terrorists attacked places like the Taj and Oberoi. If the same attack took place at a Vile Parle Udipi restaurant, I doubt if similar outpouring of public emotions would have taken place or for that matter media coverage. Look at response to recent bomb blasts – people have gone about praising resilience of Mumbaikars. It is not resilience but helplessness or resignation to fate.
The time has come for the government to invest in infrastructure and issue guidelines, especially on land acquisition which is a touchy topic. All citizens should also take a broader perspective and not suffer from “Not in my backyard” syndrome. This is the reason why Indian houses are very clean but streets are full of garbage. One of the icons of India, Mr Narayana Murthy had said for the country to go ahead one generation has to struggle and invest. In Japan, the post war generation worked extremely hard and rebuilt the country. It is time the government put its foot down and say – Yes, the road will be built and then go ahead and built it. Vested interests will continue putting spokes in all the infrastructure projects. We need to keep the wheel moving else forget dreams of India as a super power in 2020.