Mumbai civic polls: Make space for votes from A ward
Haphazard parking, narrow lanes, traffic snarls, hawkers on the footpath — these are some of the pressing issues of the high-profile A ward that is often known as the ‘VVIP’ area among the 24 administrative wards spread across the city.mumbai Updated: Feb 06, 2017 11:48 IST
Haphazard parking, narrow lanes, traffic snarls, hawkers on the footpath — these are some of the pressing issues of the high-profile A ward that is often known as the ‘VVIP’ area among the 24 administrative wards spread across the city.
Residents feel that the tag of VVIP comes with a price. “The roads here are most of the time dug up, residents don’t get to park their vehicles as the space is often encroached upon by private taxis and tourist buses as the area also houses some famous tourist locations. Residents have to face inconvenience. What is VVIP about that?” asked Manisha Makwana, Colaba resident.
The ward, which is spread over 12 square kilometres is a seat of both political and financial power in the city. It houses the oldest and is probably the most influential central business district in the country with the Reserve Bank of India, Bombay Stock Exchange headquartered here. It also house Central and Western Railways headquarters, the state secretariat building, Vidhan Bhavan besides a number of other iconic financial and commercial establishments. However, owing to the status of the area, it also witnesses high vehicular traffic and has a daily floating population of 8 lakh.
Some of the costliest properties in Asia are located in this ward. Most of the ward was developed by the British, and the area still has remnants of a bygone era. But the high-profile area also has an unusual problem of contaminated water supply. Over the years, its problems — lack of parking space, hawkers taking over pavements and crowded streets — have not improved, but have been aggravated. With increasing real estate prices, slowly crumbling infrastructure and a huge floating population, many business houses made their way out of Nariman Point to either Lower Parel or Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC).
Despite this, it is one of the few wards in the city that doesn’t face the problem of bad roads or overflowing nullahs as compared to various wards in the city’s suburbs. According to observers, it is one of the few well-maintained and open-defecation free wards.
To tackle the parking issue and to control the haphazard parking on the roads and outside housing societies, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in 2015 had introduced a parking policy that involved permits and increasing charges by 300%. The pilot project was to be implemented in A ward. However, following objections, citizens along with BJP MLA Raj Purohit from Colaba got a stay from the BJP-led government at the state. Two years later, the problem has worsened with no solution from the state. “Initially, we thought after staying the policy, the BJP government will come with a tightened and better policy to solve traffic and parking issues. However, nothing has moved in that direction,”said Pervez Cooper, vice-president, Clean Heritage Colaba Resident Association.
Another pressing issue is the lack of footpath for pedestrians. While the tony areas of the city do not face water contamination, the slum clusters in the area are among the worst affected because of it. Some slum pockets always face water shortage.
In addition to the tony areas of Cuffe Parade and Colaba, the ward is also home to the oldest inhabitants of the city. The ward has the largest fisherman colony, Machimar Nagar, who are unhappy with the current state of affairs and are fighting the multi-crore coastal road project that can potentially harm their livelihood. “In all these years, I have not seen the local corporator coming and meeting our community or trying to solve our problems. We have been fighting tooth and nail against the coastal road but never got any support from the corporators, who claim to represent us in the civic body,” said Pramella Shinde, a fisherwoman from the area.
While traditionally, the area has voted for the Congress, the BJP is making a serious bid to win seats here. It plans to woo fisherfolk by promising the redevelopment of fishing villages here and the elite by supporting citizen groups. The area has a strong presence of citizen groups and activism with the fight for open spaces starting from here. With this in mind, BJP has managed to get the city’s sole citizen corporator to win the 2012 civic elections from ward 227, Makrand Narvekar, into the party. It has now fielded two earlier citizen corporators from the area, increasing the chances of winning two out of the three wards - 227 and 226. “We will support the candidate who can develop the area and BJP has time and again proven that they are pro-development,” said Irfan Merchant, a member of My Dream Colaba, the citizen group which supported Narvekar to join BJP.