The Elphinstone stampede won't be the last time
The Elphinstone stampede could have been avoided, just like the effects of the rains on 29th August, 2017 and the several incidents before that. But there’s reason to believe we might be doomed for more. Before we get to the Government bashing let’s introspect first.
Yes, we are to blame!
Let’s get one thing straight first - the spirit of Mumbai exists only cause there’s an inherent will to survive in dire circumstances and not because the people of Bombay do something special compared to the rest. We pollute(air, water, noise and the land), build ugly concrete monsters, overcrowd endlessly and re-elect the same government to run our Municipal body time and again. So let’s accept that a large part of the blame is pointed directly towards our foolishness.
But no matter the ignorance of the ‘Mumbaikar’ towards his/her own city, do we need to be punished for it? This question is addressed in this really well-written piece by our Editor(in Marathi).
The obvious question that arises is whether this will ever improve. I love Bombay for all its hidden beauty and am super optimistic about the prospects that lie ahead. Well, atleast I was till a while ago. Over the last few years, I have realized that there’s a very good chance that we are being really naive about it all. Why do we think that a coastal road or a Metro network is going to propel us forward? Or are the numerous high rises popping up everywhere going to build us a next level vertical city? Or is a Rs. 3,600 crore Shivaji statue going to make Mumbai the next melting pot for tourists?
Exploding with people.. and problems
Mumbai wasn’t designed to fit these many people and the lack of foresight in planning for a sustainable future is glaring. The population of the city has gone from 1.84 crores in 2011 and has grown beyond 2.2 crores this year with over 41% living in slums. With the city exploding at such a rate, will the current plans suffice? I’m pretty convinced we are looking at several incidents like today’s stampede. The warning signs were written on the walls all along but went unnoticed.
Where is the tax-payers money headed?
It’s essential to estimate what the future numbers might look like before city plans are approved. The London Underground started building its amazing tube network way back in 1843. Take a look at their progress. Students, workers, businessmen and tourists use this transport system everyday! While the Mumbai local which is the supposed life line of the city is deplorable and not equipped to handle the crowds in the future or the rains of the present. It ferries millions of the working class each day with no room for more.
The historic value of most sites in India(except the really famous ones) is lost! With tons of forts erected during the Maratha Empire spread out across Maharashtra, Rs. 3,600 crore could easily have been allocated to their restoration and to boost tourism in the state. But we have taken upon ourselves a mammoth task of building another statue of Chhatrpati Shivaji while his forts lie about collecting dust. Compare that to the smallest castle in Europe and how it is portrayed as a 'must visit' place!
There's more - the roads, depleting open spaces, air pollution, etc., talking about which, would make this article endless.
The same old, typical moral lesson
We might never get out of the political and bureaucratic rut we are all stuck in, but apart from just hoping for a better future, we can start by doing out bit. This surely sounds like a 5th grade moral science lecture but being a little more sensitive to the city we live in and educating ourselves and others about what's right for society might be a good start. Don't litter, don't honk excessively, don't burst crackers during Diwali. You know the drill!