A metro dream: 10 wishes for a Thane of our dreams
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) Wanted: Places to party all night
What do Thaneiites do when they want to party? They head to Mumbai. Thane has pubs and restaurants, but these mostly host birthday parties for children and 50th wedding anniversary dos. And, they all shut by midnight. ‘Dance’ bars shut by 1am, and you venture in at your own risk.
The dozens of dhabas on the highway to Nashik serve yummy food, but are filled with truck drivers and stray travellers. Not somewhere you would want to hang out with friends although they stay open till 2am.
(Illustration: Chetan Patil)
At the hukkah parlours attached to the dhabas, there’s always the danger of run-ins with other customers or, worse, some politician out “moral policing”. Last we checked, it’s not a crime to want to have some fun with friends after a hard day’s work.
2) Toll booths: An end to the toll trolls
Thane had 16 toll booths till recently. It still has 10. What this means is that if you drive to Mumbai everyday be prepared to pay Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,400 every month. City residents started paying toll in 1997, when the Kharegaon toll booth opened on the Mumbai-Nashik Highway. When the government minister announced 56 toll plazas across the state would be shut down, only six of Thane’s were on the list.
Those using the Mulund Eastern Express highway, Modella toll naka on LBS Road, Kharghar toll naka on Bhiwandi bypass and Dahisar toll naka on Western Express Highway continue to be burdened. Protests have been in vain so far. Here’s hoping things get better.
3) For a place to park
Anyone who’s driven out to shop in the lanes of Old Thane or to a chaat shop on the banks of Masunda Lake, would have one eye on their vehicle. There’s very little place to park and every chance that the cops will tow your vehicle away. Thane’s vehicle count has multiplied manifold over the last two decades, but the authorities have built just three new parking lots in that time, though 26 plots have been reserved for the purpose.
Out of the 24 lakh people living in the city, around six lakh use their vehicles every day. Where will they park? The pay-and-park facilities planned along the roads are caught in the crossfire of votebank politics. The stacked parking planned on nullahs in the city remains on paper. We are running out of space and patience.
4) Fare deal: Ply by meter, please
Residents of Kalyan and Dombivli dream of the day when they can hop into an autorickshaw without haggling over the ‘right’ fare. The 20,000-odd autorickshaw drivers of the two cities continue to cock a snook at those trying to implement the fare meter system that’s in place in Thane and Mumbai.
With much fanfare State transport minister Diwakar Raote’s inaugurated a stand for autorickshaws plying with fare meters, near Kalyan railway station. A few hours later, the stand was deserted. No driver was ready to give up the extra buck. Is there no way to rein in these extortionists?
5) Hospitals for the poor
A city of 24 lakh residents has just one civic hospital, while there are 344 private hospitals, big and small. The 500-bed Chhatrapati Shivaji Hospital, also known as Kalwa hospital, sees around 1,400 patients a day but does not have the facilities or the expertise to treat heart diseases or neurological disorders. Of course, the TMC runs 25 health centres, but most need a booster dose.
Those who can afford it go to the private hospitals, the rest have to travel to Mumbai to access proper public health care. If the private sector can provide quality health care in Thane, why can’t the government? Affordable health care can’t remain a dream. Lives are at stake.
6) Clean up: Free our footpaths
If its roads are chaotic, Thane’s footpaths are worse. The few that exist have turned into vending zones or garbage dumps. This leaves pedestrians, especially the very young and the very old, perilously dodging vehicles on the roads. Instead of dreaming up concepts such as “harit janpath” (green footpaths), could the Thane Municipal Corporation just ensure that those that are already there are cleared and repaired for people to walk on? And could we have more footpaths along busy roads?
It’s worse in Kalyan and Dombivli: footpaths near the railway stations have been overrun by hawkers and the civic authorities plan to set up hawking zones there. It apparently pays to break the law. What about the pedestrians? They can take a walk, we guess.
7) Leisure: Seniors 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 at? 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.
Thane has just four Nana-Nani parks, the proposed senior citizen complex in Dokali is only on paper. In the twin cities of Kalyan-Dombivli, senior citizens do not have any parks.
The elderly are seen walking along the Kala Talao lake, which is crowded with youngsters and canoodling couples. This is no bad thing, but don’t senior citizens need more choices? It’s the least they deserve.
8) The wayout: Roads that connect
Trains are the lifeline of Kalyan and Dombivli residents. What do they do when the trains don’t run? And this has been happening quite often of late with track failures, overhead wires breaking or trains derailing. They simply wait for services to resume, which can take one hour or 24 hours. Their problem is that there is no proper road connectivity from Kalyan to Thane: the road winds towards Durgadi and then to Biwandi to reach Thane.
Travel can take up to an hour and a half. Developing a parallel road along Thakurli railway station would shorten travel time by half and benefit lakhs of commuters. The plan got the go-ahead in 2013, but work is mired in land acquisition and compensation issues.
9) Ambulances: Emergency medical aid
With five track accidents a day, Thane railway station should have a full-fledged hospital on its premises. All it has are two ambulances from a private agency. If the victims are lucky, some good Samaritan will rush them to hospital. Kalwa, Diva, Kopar and Thakurli railway stations don’t have ambulances either, though the number of commuters multiplies every year.
The ambulance parked at Mumbra station is supposed to serve Diva, which sees one accident every day. But the driver is reluctant to go all the way to Diva citing payment issues. It’s time the railways woke up. After all, Thane is one of the busiest stations in the country handling 6 lakh commuters every day.
10) Illegal homes: Houses that don’t collapse
With real estate prices going through the roof, buying a home that’s been built without breaking the law is something few can afford. This has spawned large scale illegal construction in Thane and beyond. People buy homes in these buildings and keep their fingers crossed, seeing as how these houses collapse every so often. The statistics are alarming – 1,31,939 unauthorised buildings as against 31,344 authorised ones.
Anyone can construct towers, as was the case of Shil Phata building which was constructed by scrap dealers. With building plans being amended more than our national laws, both builders and civic officials act confused and blatantly flout all rules.