Mumbai, the financial capital of India, with a population of 18.41 million people (as per the Census of 2011), is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It is an intricate amalgamation of business, money, trade, transport, films, fame, and food with its world-famous Vada Pav. And the Dabbawallahs’ food delivery system is one of the most efficient and best-managed networks in the world.
Although this city is has a unique cultural heritage, it faces an acute shortage of land and basic infrastructure facilities which have unfortunately not kept up with the city’s demands. Several reports claim that an estimated 60-62% of the city lives in slums (the most expensive being Dharavi) and try to earn a living while begging for food and money on the busy streets every day.
Mumbai’s public transport system consists of a suburban Indian rail network (Central, Western, Harbour), bus system as well as private black-and-yellow taxis and autorickshaws. It is believed that the suburban rail network carries over 7.5 million commuters and public buses operated by Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) service carry about an approximate 3.65 million commuters every day.
It is true that Mumbai accounts for slightly more than 6.16% of India’s economic growth. It is the wealthiest city in South, West and Central Asia, which is a fact of pride for most of us. Unfortunately, the quality of public transport infrastructure in Mumbai is on a steady decline, which adversely affects the time and energy Mumbaikars spend on travel. There is barely any coordination between organisations which could partake in the building and maintaining of road networks, further worsening the situation for the citizens.
A leading transport service for 164 years, train transport facilities are considered a major lifeline for this sleepless city. However, it has not expanded its capacity to accommodate the rising population. If a train ever gets delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, an increasing number of passengers raid the platforms till they can board a train. When a train is on the verge of halting, more than twice as many cram into the entrance of the doors, trying their best to secure space for standing inside the aisles. Or they at least, stand on the footboard of the train while struggling to get inside the train compartment.
In the last 10 years, 25,722 people have fallen off moving trains, of which 6,989 people died due to losing their grip while trying to get into a jam-packed boogie or hitting an electric pole while in motion. There have been alarming cases of deaths due to suffocation, heart attacks and seizures triggered due to a fatal drop in oxygen levels.
There has always been a need to integrate the Indian Railways with other modes of transport, like the Metro project and the betterment of road facilities. The Traffic Department struggles to manage the vehicular density at sites where metro projects are underway (currently the Dahisar-Mankhurd Line and the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ line). Besides that, acquiring special permissions for reconstruction of roads from bodies such as the MMRDA, BMC and MSRDC take not just months, but years; and still the city ends up with broken and incomplete road projects due to the cheap quality of products that some bodies use.
Frequent travellers on the road often have to put up with dug-up roads and bottlenecks and sometimes have to wait in the scorching heat. This problem gets further catalysed because of erratic vehicle movement – due to autorickshaw drivers and two-wheelers who try and cram into any room they get. Continuous driving on such roads riddled with potholes has had negative effects on the human body, with an increasing level of stress, spine-related problems (majorly spondylitis), chronic neck-related problems, etc. Several bike riders have lost their lives at having abruptly encountered these potholes and deep craters.
So how do we overcome this hullabaloo? In my opinion, a single governing organization needs to be established. It should have a long-term goal of how the city’s infrastructure needs to be properly redesigned and smoothly executed in order to stay at par with the ever-increasing population. It should be well coordinated so as to prevent an aggrandisement of confusion of each person coming up with their own ideas. It also needs to collaborate with Mumbai’s public transport and form a meandering, break-free chain so that citizens can travel effortlessly, thereby preventing them from being stranded. This will not only help in completing projects on time but also help sustain thrift investments in future projects. An efficient infrastructural planning can only be done if such an organization is initiated in this democratic city of the Mumbaikars, for the Mumbaikars and by the Mumbaikars.