The character and space of Mumbai change every nano-second. As a city, Mumbai is constantly on its toes and access to basic and solid ground infrastructure should be the topmost priority when we look at the growing number of commuters in lakhs that occupy every limit and space or the lifeline, local trains.
The stampede and near collapse of the 11 meter wide Elphinstone bridge on Friday leave us with a sense of déjà-vu in Maximum City and something many of us who ever stayed in the city was sensing to come. Unfortunately, tragedy struck where 22 innocent lives were robbed.
Studies showcase that on an average more than one lakh use the 117-year old bridge and the average commuters visiting the Elphinstone area amounts to 10 lakhs a day. The numbers tell an entire story on the toll that the bridge takes and it’s not an issue restricted to just one but several stations in the city. It’s apathy at its best where several railways suffer from such a burden.
The fact remains that thousands and lakhs flock to the city every day in search of a better life and opportunity. High time for the BMC and the Government to answer the pressing questions on the why’s of a city that once aspired to become the Shanghai of India is suffering from a dearth of safe infrastructure. The answer doesn’t lie in the 3,600 crores Shivaji Maharaj statue. Mumbai as a city in spirit and soul need basic infrastructure and amenities so that the people and visitors can securely move around from one part to another.
In the light of incidents taking place such as the crumbling of railway infrastructure or the city coming down to its knees every monsoon, arguments such as The Spirit or resilience of Mumbai is almost an insult to commoners. It’s high time that the BMC show accountability in giving its citizens a dignified life. One cannot afford to lose life in exchange for a compensation of 5 lakhs. It’s a slap on the face of innocent people. It makes one wonder, what is the fault of the people?
The time I stayed in the city, there were instances where I walked past the Elphinstone bridge and every time there was a fear that mayhem will strike due to the lack of space and inability to sustain the growing population pressure. Let me give one small example, every time a local reaches platform No 1, commuters jostle for space on the bridge and recklessly run down the stairs where there is a huge risk of stampede. It’s the sorry state of not just one but several railway stations in the city.
There are questions on the enlarging of Elphinstone bridge in the present case scenario and why the project to the tune of Rs 11-12 crores that were sanctioned in the budget couldn’t be implemented. It’s a clear case of apathy, red-tapism, and corruption among the decision-makers. The BMC is considered to be the richest municipal body in Asia and still, nothing has been done to give dignity and ensure safety. Chasing immigrants with the slogan, ‘Bhaiya Bhagao’ is not the answer and it only shows how they mask their short-sightedness by blaming poor migrants or looking for scapegoat.
The reality is that the Shiv Sena, Congress, and the BJP are equally responsible for the neglect and constant crumbling of infrastructure that not only claimed lives but sinking the city further down the drain. Each one of these political parties have ruled Mumbai at some point or the other where every single day people live constantly on the edge.
Bureaucracy has gone from bad to worse in the city and infrastructure is getting worse by the day coupled with a lack of minimum standard in mounting projects. The least that policymakers can and must do: Raise standards and norms first before speaking about bullet train or 3,600 crores statue.
Basic and rooted infrastructure, security and adhering to norms is what a premiere city like Mumbai needs and the financial capital of India cannot afford to lose this game due to apathy and corruption. Stop the refrain of resilience or spirit every time mayhem struck!