The nation’s financial capital lost countless man-hours on Wednesday as thousands of office-goers residing in the eastern suburbs as well as neighbouring Thane, Navi Mumbai, and Raigad were unable to reach their workplaces due to disruption on the Central Railway.
Experts claim that the city’s planning ensures this kind of loss every time there is any transport disruption. The reason — the flow of the workforce is in the north-south direction as a majority of business hubs are located in the island city. And most people are dependent on trains as their mode of transport. According to transport infrastructure experts, the state government has done little to decongest commercial establishment from the island city to neighbouring cities.
“In 1970s, the state government had planned to decongest Mumbai by developing Navi Mumbai as a satellite city. But it served the purpose only partially as people shifted there for affordable housing,” said Chandrashekar Khandekar, former executive engineer of the BMC, who worked on the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP).
Urban planners say that government offices such as the Mantralaya should be decentralised and private players should be given incentives to shift their base to the suburbs or outside Mumbai.
Experts also pointed out the danger to human life in case of any disaster in the island city during the day. “Keeping in mind today’s situation, any disaster in south Mumbai can result in heavy human loss. Majority of our working class is in this area during the day and disburse only in the evening. I think it is high time the government should think of shifting the commercial establishments from town,” said Khandekar.
However, DM Sukthankar, former chief secretary of Maharashtra, believes that corporates will shift base, but it may take another 20-30 years. “Bandra-Kurla Complex and Andheri-Kurla link were planned with a view to decongest the island city. Some of the divisional government offices were also shifted to BKC, but then the idea lost steam. However, several corporate offices are already shifting from the south,” he said.
The state government has now planned a new business hub in Wadala. Also, it wants to develop Raigad and Thane district along the proposed multi-modal transport corridor linking Virar and Alibaug.
The government is also expecting that private offices will shift to Navi Mumbai once the proposed special economic zones take shape there. But the biggest concern is the slow pace of projects, which are stuck due to various issues including environmental clearance and red-tapism.