So many forms of energy resources go waste in a city like Mumbai. Not many are aware of this. We can begin with making colleges and educational institutions self-sufficient in terms of the resources they consume on a regular basis, which is a lot.
I actively started contributing to this cause a long time ago. I have been giving lectures and talking to various colleges in Pune and in Mumbai, like KJ Somaya in Ghatkopar, to encourage them to become self-sufficient in terms of their energy sources.
I propagate the use of rainwater harvesting systems to save water and the use of solar powered panels that can help conserve energy in an environmentally friendly manner.
I also found that it is not as expensive to convert systems into rainwater harvesting ones. In the long run, they would actually be cheaper than buying huge tankers, putting them up and filling them with water. But yes, it is also true that as more number of people use it, the cheaper it will become, as an alternative to our current means of consumption. There is a mental shift that needs to take place among people for such means to be adopted entirely.
The simple and efficient use of these means not only can produce enough energy for one institution or a building, but it can produce extra to serve more homes. These means are capable of taking care of a major amount of energy, which is consumed by the city regularly and are hugely beneficial to the environment.
The reason I was led to actively support the cause and drawn to understand the seriousness of the situation was the outcome of a rather silly incident. It happened, when one day I didn’t have water in my house on Pali Hill, Bandra. It was weird and stupid for it to influence someone like this, but you realise how grave the situation is, only when it happens to you.
Why must people wait for things to get so bad that there is nothing that can be done about it? Which is why I am encouraging people to adopt this way of life. I think even universities like Oxford and Harvard are trying to utilise these means. So there is no reason why we should not.
I do not work with any one Non Government Organisation or one social worker, but if anyone is interested in contributing to this, in any way, they can write to me on Facebook and I can communicate it further to people, who I know can further the initiative.
— As told to Serena Menon
I think it’s the continual ignorance of the urban poor, the denial of the fact that it is them that keep the city running day in and out — which is a major issue that requires addressal from within the city.
They are the ones who deliver your milk in the mornings, deliver your newspapers, wait at your table, look after your cricket grounds, work at your construction sites and drive your cars, among so many other things. But the deplorable state in which they are forced to live is disturbing.
The urban poor are single-handedly responsible for keeping the city on its feet. If they were not doing what they did, the city would come to a standstill. And for someone who contributes so much to the life of the people of Mumbai, they have to fight for their house, find illegal means of getting electricity. It is the worst expression of feudalism that we see around us by neglecting them, 65 years after gaining independence.
The urban poor need to be recognised, legalised and given their due... whether that happens by giving them their rights, legalising their housing arrangements, letting them have electricity and rent. They need to be given a legal status and at least a minimum standard of recognition in terms of government services that we do not do for some reason.
I can’t say I have contributed to furthering this cause in a serious way, but I have raised my voice when issues of legalising housing in slum areas in the city came up. I have been involved in helping many such victims during the 26/7 floods; my major chunk of work has been towards helping abolish discrimination of any sort towards any segment of people. I work with the Citizens for Justice and Peace. I have worked with Akshara Centre in the past, for seven years, where I can proudly say we have gone down to the grass root levels to make a difference.
— As told to Serena Menon
I remember being outraged the first time I heard about a Rs 350 crore statue that was to be constructed in the memory of Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The government said, that because of the construction of this statue, the sea link’s extension would get postponed, and its cost would go up by another Rs 1000 Crore. I mean no disrespect to Chhatrapati Shivaji, who was a truly great and able king, I was extremely angered by this news since there are so many issues in the city that are a matter of grave concern and deserve the funds more urgently.
In spite of being India’s financial capital, Mumbai doesn’t have motorable roads, water, usable power, and the problem of farmer suicides still looms over Maharashtra.
I think it’s high time people stop taking nonsense from elected representatives. I took the initiative and started a portal, smallchange.in, where I asked people to support the cause of Mumbai by signing on. When I get enough signatures, I will file a PIL in court against the construction of the statue, so that funds are allocated towards the right causes.
For the same cause, I filed nine RTIs in various government departments to find out how these funds are being allocated, and believe it or not, out of the four replies I have got, no single department has any news about the construction of the statue! The entire exercise was a fabricated campaign. It was a sham, and I have official proof. It was just another random election promise. I strongly believe that there should be a Responsible Citizens of Mumbai Committee, elected by people of Mumbai, NGOs, or courts. This committee of well-known citizens should be responsible of allocating such funds to ensure the betterment of our city.
— As told to Nikhil Taneja
Child abuse, physical and sexual, is an enormous and neglected crisis in our country and our city. I don’t want to sound preachy, but we need to do much more to protect our children.
I know from my work with UNICEF and RAHI that the figures for child abuse in Bombay — including domestic violence, incest, child labour, trafficking, corporal punishment, and other forms of abuse — are simply terrifying. Young girls fight for their safety even in a city like ours that prides itself for being comparatively safe for women and girls.
What’s equally tragic is that most of these children never speak of their trauma and suffer its terrible pain all their lives. Because it’s an uncomfortable truth to accept, despite clear statistics, sadly our society is still in great denial about the widespread existence of child abuse — and about how it severely damages countless innocent lives every year.
I work with UNICEF as their Advocate for Child Protection — we are developing a campaign to promote greater safety and outlaw corporal punishment, a huge and heartbreaking problem in India.
The recent deaths of Babli Ghosh in Bengal and Shanno Khan in Delhi are unforgivable. Even when I was in college in the U S, I worked as a Survivor Advocate i.e. a support person for victims of physical and sexual abuse.
My involvement with the cause of stopping child abuse is a long one, and I often connect it to my film and theatre work as well. With UNICEF I’ll complete a series of Public Service Announcements against corporal punishment.
Before joining RAHI (Recovering and Healing from Incest) as its Cause Ambassador, I played the traumatised protagonist of the play 30 Days of September at Prithvi, produced by RAHI, and completed Chuppee, a short feature sponsored by UNIFEM for raising awareness on child sexual abuse. My relationship with RAHI started in Mumbai, and much of my work for RAHI finds tremendous support from Mumbai.
With both UNICEF and RAHI, I work toward raising countrywide awareness about child abuse and stopping it.
The first step is to stop denying, hiding, or neglecting it. We make efforts to reach out to children and adults alike, who may be victims or survivors, to let them know that help is available, and encourage them to break the silence and heal (through individual counselling or group therapy).
We also train young adults and grown-ups (siblings, parents, neighbours, teachers, family friends, etc) to be able to identify, support and protect children who may be victims.
A great deal of work still needs to be done in the area of protecting a child’s right to have a childhood.
– As told to Sujata Reddy
The obvious aspect that irks me the most about the city is its traffic. But there is little that an individual can do about it, except perhaps make car pools for children and try to minimise the usage of cars altogether. We need a much better public transport system.
But the thing that troubles me the most is the lack of open spaces in the city. I can claim, with some satisfaction, that I have been the first MP, who consciously worked towards regenerating open spaces. The four kilometre promenade in Bandstand and Carter Road, the Fort at Taj Lands End where more than a thousand trees were planted and the entire hill restored and an open-air amphitheatre is built, the 5 km stretch in Juhu Beach, have all had contributions from my MPLADS funds.
All these spaces are the brainchild of my colleague architect, PK Das, who sensitised me to the fact that open spaces are the lungs of the city and we neglect them at our own peril. It is also due to very conscientious citizens groups — the Bandra West Residents Association, the Bandra Carter Road Trust and the Juhu Citizens Welfare Group who struggled for many years to make their dream a reality — that these are success stories. They now guard these open spaces zealously. They have a stake and a sense of ownership that prevents miscreants and vested interests from encroaching. PK Das and the Kamla Raheja College of Architecture have also worked out a superb plan for the Irla Nalla that can green 10 kms of open space. BMC has the funds and should take it up on priority. There is a need to reclaim the various open spaces, create cycling tracks and more. It can all be done. We need the various stakeholders to come together and claim ownership. Each one of us can make a difference.
— As told to Rachana Dubey