By Atharva Pandit:
Hardly a ten-minute walk from Ruia College, Matunga station is perhaps the sole convenient commute option for students who traverse daily, from the central line stations of Mumbai. A small station compared to its immediate neighbour Dadar, it is marked by several shops selling everything from magazines to vada pavs to stationery and is flanked by the Matunga market, which in itself borders King’s Circle and boasts of some of the best Udupi joints in the city. That’s not to mention the vegetable and fruit sellers which do their business every day in the glaring sun. The station might be small, but it harbours a lot of people and a lot of hopes.
On October 13th, several newspapers across Mumbai reported that the trio of Wellingkar Institute of Management Studies, Poddar College of Commerce and Ruia College were planning an ambitious project to convert Matunga station into a station with ‘most modern facilities’. By and large, this would then be extended to the whole of Matunga, with plans to convert it into an educational hub. “Matunga has some of the best educational institutes,” Dr. Uday Salunke, who is the Director of WeSchool Group, which is at the forefront of this project, told the dailies. “And with a population of nearly 70,000 students, can we not look at the possibility of turning this ecosystem into a student-centric university township that will nurture our global citizen leaders?” the newspapers further quoted him opining.
The project has been undertaken under Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ model, which aims to ‘transform India into a global manufacturing hub’, according to the description on its official website. And while this project has been launched under the aim of benefiting ‘thousands of commuting students’, the students themselves had little idea about it. When they read about it, however, they gave out mixed responses.
“I would appreciate this idea since it could act as the changing turn of the stereotype stations,” reasoned Rohit Machcha, a Second Year Commerce student at Poddar College. “Modern railway stations will not only make the travel quick but also make it safe by using modern technology,” he further added. “The idea and the thought behind this whole concept is quite brilliant,” Aishwarya Mushunari, a First Year BMM student at Ruia College stated, adding, “with a good direction, I think it’ll work.”
Not all, however, were convinced. The fact that Ruia College has been, recently, plagued by financial problems, with rumours that Professors’ salaries are being denied floating around, many questioned the college’s role in this innovative, and costly undertaking. While admitting that the upgrade sounds “extremely fancy and amazing”, a student, who requested anonymity, questioned the deployment and sustenance of the facilities used, and also raised fears about their use over a longer period of time. “What we normally see is that there is often an utter chaos and stations are a mess,” he pointed out. And what about the market surrounding the station? “For the residents here, it is a vital part of their lives,” said Aseema Karandikar, who herself is a resident of the Hindu Colony in Matunga. “And anyway, Matunga is more of a residential area than an educational hub, so I don’t know what they are talking about when they say that they want to convert it into a university township,” she further added.
Since the ‘world-class station’, if and when it happens, would also end up displacing those who have their bread and butter dependent on the market, I ventured to ask the vegetable-sellers and shopkeepers around what they thought about it. “If I get to keep my place, then its good,” said Ashwin, who sells vegetables from the morning till late afternoon in the market. Most others held the same belief. Dhanraj, another vendor, asked me what they plan to do about their employment if this project gets going. What, indeed?
Attempts to ask questions about the initiative to the professors failed, mostly because they weren’t encouraged to answer these questions. It is common knowledge now that the administration of Ruia College is struggling with finances, with students being denied even a measly amount required to start a college print magazine; in such circumstances, what kind of a message is the administration trying to send to the students by backing such projects? Instead of ‘developing’ a station which seems to be doing well enough for itself, why not develop the cultural atmosphere the college is famed for? Most importantly, were students’ opinions considered regarding the project, considering it has been undertaken with their convenience in mind?
There is no denying that, at the outset, the project seems well-intentioned, but it has these and several other questions to answer if it is to be taken care of earnestly.
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