What Mumbai can learn from the campaign to hasten Gokhale Bridge work | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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What Mumbai can learn from the campaign to hasten Gokhale Bridge work

Apr 15, 2024 09:02 AM IST

The citizens' created a WhatsApp group titled ‘Gokhale Bridge ASAP.’ It quickly breached its limit of 500 members, and a second one had to be created

MUMBAI: The many highs and lows over the demolition and recreation of Gokhale Bridge, a key east-west connector in Andheri, is imprinted in the minds of Mumbaikars. While the bridge’s demolition put citizens’ lives out of gear, it also provided fodder for punchlines and stand-up acts.

Mumbai, India. Feb 27,2024 - After 15 months traffic movvents on Gokhale bridge at Andheri in Mumbai. Gokhale bridge, connecting Andheri East and Andheri West. reopened after 15 months of repair work following a partial collapse of the bridge. Feb 27,2024. (Photo by Raju Shinde/HT Photo)
Mumbai, India. Feb 27,2024 - After 15 months traffic movvents on Gokhale bridge at Andheri in Mumbai. Gokhale bridge, connecting Andheri East and Andheri West. reopened after 15 months of repair work following a partial collapse of the bridge. Feb 27,2024. (Photo by Raju Shinde/HT Photo)

The K East ward is home to approximately 8.5 lakh people, and K West to 7.7 lakh, according to BMC’s 2019 estimates. This, barring the area’s floating population through colleges, cinemas, restaurants and nightlife. The bridge is also instrumental in connecting to the Western Express Highway, as the Link Road and SV Road are known to bear heavy traffic.

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“There is no adequate alternative to the Gokhale Bridge,” said Dhaval Shah, founder of the Lokhandwala Oshiwara Citizens Association (LOCA) which has been leading the fight for the bridge. “When the bridge was shut in November 2022, everyone felt like the rug had been pulled from under their feet.”

The citizens acted promptly launched social media campaigns, starting with a change.org petition that till now has almost 11,000 signatures. Their next step was creating a WhatsApp group titles ‘Gokhale Bridge ASAP.’ It quickly breached its limit of 500 members, and a second one had to be created.

In December, the core team livestreamed a meeting with MLA Ameet Satam on Instagram, where the problems of citizens were discussed in great detail. It was also shared on X. The severe frustrations of people kept the campaign going. While the bridge was first promised in May 2023, BMC flouted six subsequent deadlines.

The helplessness led to an outpouring on social media. When the campaign was still budding, the @AndheriLOCA twitter handle had 2,000 followers. Today, it has around 28,000. Their Instagram handle has a similar 22,000 followers, with the combined strength on WhatsApp at 600.

“BMC was never very transparent with us about the status of the work, choosing to share information of the record or only to corporators and politicians,” said Shah.

Watching each step in the bridge’s short but storied history, and routine engagement with officials helped the campaigners built their trust with the public. “We hoped our campaign to be a gamechanger for infrastructure projects in the city. It was the first time so many people were splitting hairs over a bridge,” said Dinesh Mehta, a member of @AndheriLOCA group. “And we have shown, with the response we received, that other projects could also be done at quick pace.”

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