Here are some of the things we think will help make your lives better. You could probably list many more. Let’s work together. Let’s make the news better.
1) Toll booths: An end to the toll trolls
This must be everyone’s pet peeve. People living in Navi Mumbai cannot drive into or out of Mumbai without paying a toll. The toll plaza at Vashi has been there since 1994, and a new one came up across the creek at Airoli some years ago. We are not even talking about those monstrosities mushrooming all along the road to Pune. Can we at least get rid of the one at Vashi? It’s not just the money that you end up spending; dreadful traffic snarls add to your pain. Late at night or on a Sunday evening, you would expect to be able to drive through.
Guess again. That’s when the queues are often the worst; blame it on weekend vacationers and long-distance truckers. If this is not enough, Navi Mumbaiites pay a surcharge (for the Mankhurd Belapur railway project) while travelling by train.
2) Ambulances: Emergency aid at all railway stations
Navi Mumbai has 15 railway stations, but only two -- Vashi and Nerul -- have an ambulance facility. Even Panvel – the busiest station in the satellite city with 7 lakh commuters daily – doesn’t have one. So what happens if there is a medical emergency? It’s anybody’s guess. Some stations have informal arrangements with private ambulance services, but these are unreliable at best.
Meanwhile, the number of commuters using the trains is growing every day, while the number of services isn’t.
The result: ever-growing crowds at the railway stations and packed compartments during peak hours. It’s not just about ensuring medical care in time if someone falls off a train. Given the number of number of commuters passing through these stations all through the day, basic medical facilities are the least people can expect. Again, this shouldn’t take ten years. But then it’s the government.
3) Airport: Can we have our airport, please
The Navi Mumbai airport is like some mythical creature: everyone’s heard of it but none’s seen it. The first planes were supposed to have landed and taken off three years ago. 2019 is the latest deadline for completion of the airport that is expected to serve 10 million passengers a year.
The only sign of any activity at the project site is a blue board that has been there for years now. Land acquisition and environment clearances have held up work and pushed up costs. And everyone is blaming everyone else for the mess.
Now, things are supposed to have started moving; so can we please have the first planes in at least some time in the next ten years? For now, the only things taking off in the area are property prices.
4) Hawker-free: Free our footpaths, open spaces
Navi Mumbai has a well-deserved reputation as a planned city with broad roads, proper footpaths for pedestrians, and wide open spaces. But a creeping malaise is spreading across the city. Hawkers have started to take over the footpaths, especially near the railway stations. In other places, the well-heeled are to be blamed: they’ve converted footpaths into parking lots for their cars.
Every so often the civic authorities resort to a clean up, but things are back to square one in a couple of hours. So senior citizens and children are left to dodge traffic on the roads. It shouldn’t take the next ten years to set this right. Navi Mumbaiites, this is where you come in.
5) Health care for all: More hospitals that the poor can afford
A city with a population of 14lakh-plus has just one civic hospital, at Vashi. Three more are coming up – at Nerul, Belapur and Airoli – but delays have plagued the project. The doctor-patient ratio remains dismal. Specialised care remains beyond the means of most. There are a couple of top-notch private hospitals but costs are prohibitive. Most people rely on the host of small clinics that dot the bylanes of the various nodes. If the government doesn’t have the funds, can’t it rope in philanthropists to fund public healthcare projects?
And it’s not just finding a hospital. Getting to one is a problem too. A mobile ambulance was inaugurated two years ago, but it is yet to start because of long-pending administrative issues. Do we really have to wait ten years for things to get better?
6) Water transport: Let’s ride the waves to SoBo
Imagine no traffic jams, no toll to pay, and no potholes while travelling to south Mumbai. You can actually get this if the authorities restart the hovercraft services from Vashi and Belapur to the Gateway of India. They ran from 1994 to 1999, but labour trouble and infrastructure constraints forced a shutdown. True the eastern freeway has cut travel time to Sobo, but the sea route is even faster, and definitely more fun. And boat rides down the coast to Alibaug would surely be popular with Navi Mumbaiites?
Just look at the response to the ferry service between Belapur and Elephanta launched in May. With a travel time of only 20 minutes, it did good business till it ran into rough weather over mandatory permissions. Can’t the authorities float projects that won’t sink without a trace?
7) Nightspots: Party all night
If you want to party you head to Mumbai. For, Navi Mumbai’s nightspots are limited to the pubs and restaurants at Inorbit mall at Vashi (which shuts by 10.30pm), or the row of restaurants that line the road towards Belapur, just beyond Palm Beach Road. Of course, there are places that stay open late into the night, but enter at your own risk.
Isn’t it time we stopped being Mumbai’s poor cousins and got a nightlife of our own? It’s not just about having a place to sit and drink and generally make merry. After 10 pm there are no public places where people can just hangout, doing nothing in particular. No beaches, no parks, no promenades. Can’t a city that prides itself on its infrastructure do better.
8) Leisure: Senior citizens need their space
Why do we expect senior citizens to be happy with a walk in the park or a visit to the temple? Why can’t we build them other spaces to hang out? Spaces properly designed to cater to their special needs, with people around to help if needed. These could include reading areas, places to walk and exercise safely, and restaurants serving food that’s easy on the stomach. The NMMC and CIDCO have built some recreational centres for senior citizens, but these do not really pass muster.
If Navi Mumbai is to truly become a global city, than it needs facilities and spaces dedicated to serving senior citizens, who have time on their hands but nowhere to spend it outside their homes.
9) Park avenue: For a place to park
Park as you please seems to be the norm in the city. Vehicles are parked every which way along narrow roads and even on footpaths. Vashi, Kopar Khairane, Nerul, Kalamboli and Panvel are the worst-affected. The number of vehicles on the city roads has also gone up manifold to 5,89,406. That there are few parking lots is one problem.
Often it’s just vehicle-owners insisting on parking right in front of which ever shop or apartment block they want to visit that causes the problem.
There’s only one bunch of people who are happy with all these vehicles parked on the road. Vehicle thieves. In the first five months of this year alone, 236 four-wheelers were stolen from the city.
Why can’t Cidco and the NMMC come up with a solution?
10) Fair deal: Ply by the meter, please
Anyone who’s ever taken an autorickshaw in Navi Mumbai can vouch that the fare you pay is not what the meters show. It gets worse beyond Kharghar towards Panvel. The city’s 15,000-odd autorickshaw drivers even oppose new bus services saying their earnings will drop. The authorities seem unable to do anything about matters. Calls to the helpline numbers don’t help either. Trying to reason with the auto drivers won’t get you anywhere.
And, with very few buses plying within nodes, residents are forced to depend on autos to get to and from the train stations and the drivers know this. Is it too much to ask that the authorities ensure auto drivers ply by the fare meters, do not refuse fares and do not tamper with the meters? After all, no one is saying they won’t pay. People only don’t want to be cheated.