The newspaper of today fluttering in front of me announces the flagging of Metro Rail in Mumbai today and as I key these words, it would have been flagged off, some last minute posturing between the Govt. and Reliance over the fares notwithstanding. Reliance was the successful private bidder for this project which was supposed to be on PPP (Public Private Partnership) model. Tomorrow in Mumbai local trains and near water coolers in offices many will be singing paeans to the launch of the Mumbai Metro. Real estate brokers who have been jacking up the rates of properties along the Metro line for 10 years now claiming ‘Metro Aaraha Hai’( like they have been doing in Navi Mumbai showing picture of one empty land in Panvel with a board which says “Site for New International Airport”) will now say that their promise has been kept!!! Not to mention of the viral pictures, videos and messages which will “forward” on WhatsApp, FB,..!!! Just that the project which was an absolute must for a city like Mumbai has ambled in some 20 years late.
If at all if there was any city in India which needed a Metro in the first place, it was Mumbai. For years the suburban rail network built by the British has been literally carrying the commute burden of the Mumbaikars without a break down as efficiently as possible. Though it was obvious that it was bursting at its seams, the administration was only working on putting bandages here and there and flogging the same without seriously thinking of an alternative. Kolkata surprisingly with Communists at its helm for more than 3 decades implemented the Metro 1st in India. With the support of Soviet specialists (not surprisingly) and inspired by the idea of Public investments in infrastructure, Kolkata went ahead with the Metro and commissioned the same as early as in 1984, 10- 12 years after laying the foundation. Delhi was the next in line to adopt the Metro Rail. Delhi ofcourse had 2 things going in its favour. The Common Wealth Games which Delhi hosted and the leadership of Mr. E. Sreedharan (Now called the Metroman). Both these ensured that Delhi Metro was on track in record time. Mumbai was not blessed with either. In Mumbai when you really want something to happen, the whole political world conspires to delay it!!! Is this city Paul Coelho’s nemesis???
30 years after it was conceived and 10 years after its Bhumi Pujan, finally the day dawned for commissioning the Metro in Mumbai. And this is true for every infrastructure project in Mumbai. I remember the ‘Vikhroli Jogeswari Link Road’ project a crucial one linking the eastern and western suburbs of Mumbai started when I joined my last company in 2000. It got completed in 2011 the year I left that company. 11 years to complete a Road project??? During those 11 years as I was passing by that road day in and day out suffering from long traffic snarls due to “Work in slow progress”, I was convinced that the much needed political will needed in ensuring fast implementation was missing among the Mumbai rulers. And this I would say is true cutting across all political parties which have been in power in the state in the last 50 years.
Here I must mention with abundant adoration the work and the difference made by one T.Chandrasekhar an IAS officer who as Municipal Commissioner of Thane in the late 90’s changed the face of Thane in 3 years. Within months after he took over, he cleared illegal slums and hawkers and launched a massive road widening and beautification drive. He had the backing of the political class till the time he didn’t touch their vested interests. Trouble started brewing when he started acting on illegal restaurants, encroachments and buildings. The Municipal councilors passed a resolution to sack him but eventually backed off when public showed solidarity behind him and Bal Thackeray the late Shiv Sena Chief supported him in his endeavour. As part of his master plan Chandrasekhar had in fact started work on a Metro Rail project within Thane. Unfortunately like all good things in this country Thane’s tryst with better destiny ended when he was “promoted” and transferred to Nagpur. The Thane Metro dream ended then. He came back to Mumbai years later and was made responsible for Infrastructure projects. But frustrated by lack of support and political interference he resigned from IAS and is now a potential AAP candidate 🙂 In the mean-time Mumbai continued to suffer. Its clear that if there is political will a transformation is possible.
Whether it is Express highways, a decent mass public transport system or world class airport Mumbai has been 20-25 years behind in getting them. Few months back as Mumbaikars we were lucky to get a world class International airport terminal. All along we had a bus stand masquerading as an airport. As I mentioned, may be 20 years late. Today has been the day of the Metro. And by the time the 3 phases of the Metro will be completed and it begins to make a difference to commuting public I guess it will be another 10 years away.
With India in the throes of change after the recently held General Elections one can say with certitude that people have voted for development and positive change. One hopes that the administrators of Mumbai also will get the message and work towards making Mumbai a better place to live. “We will make Mumbai a Shanghai” – this baloney has been mouthed by the rulers for long. The moot question is whether there is enough stock of “will” for the same??
Ache Din Aa gaye???
X: Metro came to Mumbai but it came so late!!
Y: Be happy. It atleast came late not after you became Late !!!