ABOUT 15 kilometre away from Panvel, in a cluster of 11 villages, a small sea of people heads towards Mumbai city every day to work and study. Bhingarwadi, Bhingar, Shedung, Belavali, Vardoli, Bherle and Moho are little villages where villagers have traditionally been engaged in the cultivation of rice and vegetables to sell in nearby markets. Today, a sizeable number of these villagers seeks employment in the city — those who are educated, find jobs in the service sector, and the rest work as watchmen and labourers.
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However, these commuters face a major problem as the closest local train station is in Panvel, on the Harbour Line of Central Railway , making the daily commute a struggle. The commuters need to travel from their respective villages in shared rickshaws and buses to Panvel station, from where they head to Navi Mumbai, Thane and Mumbai for work.
Bharat Patil, sarpanch of the Belavli-Vardoli group gram panchayat, said, “It takes the villagers around two hours every day just to reach Panvel station because they need to wait for a long time for the rickshaws and buses.” This means that well over five hours are spent every day just commuting. This daily shuttling is costly too — for one trip to Panvel, the cost is Rs 10-12. According to Patil, his panchayati area has a total population of around 3,500 people of whom around 500 make this daily commute.
There has been a long-standing demand in this area for the establishment of a local train station here to make access to the city easier. This has also been taken up by Lok Sabha MP Shriranga Barne who has been conveying the need for a local railway station at Bhingarwadi on the Panvel-Karjat line to Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
The railway lines were laid several years back and goods trains and trains going to Pune function on these tracks, but the suburban railway system has not been extended here. This has been a sustained demand of the villagers and their panchayats for around two years now with no result so far. Now, that the project has got a nod from Prabhu, hopes that it will be implemented are high.
“This is a public requirement. The villagers, especially students, who have to travel so much every day really suffer a lot. It will benefit not only the people of my villages but all the adjoining villages as well,” said Patil.
The number of villagers heading out to work has accelerated with the creation of work opportunities with the development of Navi Mumbai. Better connectivity with a new station will benefit not only current commuters but will also open up new opportunities.
Shiv Sena worker Kiran Chavan said: “Currently, a lot of people are not able to go to the city for small jobs because most of their salary will be spent on travelling; better train connectivity will open options. Those who sell vegetables they grow, can only go as far as the markets of Panvel, but cheap travel will enable them to go further if needed.”
The construction of a suburban railway station here is likely to prompt new construction and development activities in this area. Big builders have initiated large residential projects in this area over the past one and half years. With a railway station on the anvil, this scenic green rural landscape on the outskirts of Mumbai may be up for a big transformation soon.
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