With there being a change in governance after 15 years, Mumbai residents have several expectations from 44-year-old Devendra Fadnavis, the second-youngest chief minister, in improving their quality of life and restoring Mumbai’s vibrancy.
TRAFFIC & DECONGESTION
Adding an array of flyovers and transport infrastructure such as the Eastern Freeway and the Santacruz Chembur link Road were only temporary solutions to easing congestion, and will encourage more private vehicles on the road, experts say.
“The new chief minister should give priority to public transport. The criteria should be that if any new infrastructure project has to be taken up, then public transport should be able to carry at least 50 percent of the traffic it will attract,” said AV Shenoy, a consumer activist and traffic expert.
Shenoy said the government should take special efforts to improve the occupancy rates of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking buses that have dropped from about 85 percent to 58 percent.
Radical measures such as congestion tax, a parking cess and better infrastructure for pedestrians are also some of the suggestions.
Even as the average cost of a house in Mumbai is now close to Rs 2 crore and buying property in this city is a stretch even for the upper middle class, the administration has so far done little to intervene in real estate prices.
Pankaj Kapoor, managing director at real estate research firm Liases Foras, said the new state government should think of tax reforms in real estate to push down prices. “The government has been levying additional taxation and premiums for several factors that ultimately add on to the total price a buyer has to pay. The state government should also speedily set up a housing regulator as that will usher in an era of sales on the carpet area than the super built-up area that developers quote.” Further, the government’s thrust on the Mumbai-Nhava Sheva trans harbour link will open up close to 700 square km of land in a land-locked city at a convenient distance of 20-40 minutes from prime areas of Mumbai, Kapoor said.
Industry experts call for proper master plan for Mumbai to decide the distribution of FSI rather than simply doling out additional built-up area to developers on a scheme-by-scheme basis.
Walk around the city and you will struggle to find a decent public toilet. Rough estimates by BMC officials state that the city has just 4,500 toilets in the city, of which 65-70 per cent are for men.
The issue of public toilets and sanitation finds no mention in the BJP’s state or central manifesto, says Simpreet Singh, an activist with Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan, an NGO.
“While big-ticket projects like coastal road makes it to mainfestos and government agendas, a fundamental issue like public toilets is ignored. The right to relieve oneself, especially for women, should be a priority for the new government,” Singh said.
Ashok Datar, head of the Mumbai Environmental Social Network, said, “The new government should legislate that each ward should provide public toilet blocks and government should provide subsidies if required.”
Successive governments have come up with sporadic beautification plans for Mumbai such as the Marine Drive promenade project or the most recent proposal to give the Kalaghoda crescent a Manhattan-like makeover turning it into a Times Square. However, social activists feel the real beauty of Mumbai would lie in the street experience it offers to people.
“We should concentrate on well-designed footpaths, clearing space outside railways stations – a space used by seven million people a day, projects that will have the most impact in the city,” said Rishi Aggarwal, social activist and research fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Nayana Kathpalia, trustee, NAGAR, an urban planning think tank, said the government’s focus should be more on cleansing our polluted rivers and sprucing up beachfronts.
“Why would people come to Mumbai to see a Times Square or a London Eye? Let’s not import art and culture. The prime minister recently spoke of how wonderful it is to be able to make a speech at Central Park, New York, but in Mumbai, we are not even allowed to hold cultural events in Horniman Circle.”
Despite being Bollywood’s birthplace and India’s entertainment capital, Mumbai faces a severe dearth of venues for theatre, art and music. Mumbai is no longer a city that never sleeps with restrictions on pubs and eateries, something that Shiv Sena’s Aditya Thackeray had proposed changing.
The “ridiculously high” entertainment tax rules have ensured that events shift out of Mumbai to Bangalore and Goa, and moral policing coupled with strict deadlines turns away potential revellers, said music director and singer Vishal Dadlani. “We lose half our tourists because Mumbai is no longer safe for women, and the other half because there is nowhere to go and nothing to do in this city. With nightclubs and eateries bound by 1am rule, youngsters have no place to enjoy in the city. There is no space or facility by the government to promote art and culture. We hope a progressive man like Fadnavis, who is known to enjoy music, changes the cultural scene of Mumbai,” he said.