What happened on September 29 at the Elphinstone-Parel foot overbridge was a disaster foretold. Being a true blue Mumbaikar I have seen man-made tragedy after tragedy unfold over the years. Mumbaikars are easily the most resilient people in India. We are famous for the “Mumbai spirit”, proved again and again by the fact that we pick up the shards of our shattered lives immediately after any tragedy and just get back to work as if that tragedy hadn’t happened at all. The famed Mumbai spirit only proves one thing — that successive governments at the municipal level or at the state or Centre, don’t care a fig whether a Mumbaikar lives or dies! It proves that Mumbaikars don’t have any other alternative. but to get back to work, not something we should be proud of. The Mumbai spirit is an excuse used by politicians time and time again not to do anything about the crumbling infrastructure.
In this instant, everybody from regular local train travellers to the local MLA Arvind Sawant to none other than Sachin Tendulkar, in his capacity as Rajya Sabha MP, had written to the rail ministry, drawing attention to the fact that this particular foot overbridge, shared by two busy local rail stations was just too narrow for the footfalls at rush hour. Nothing was done about it first, citing lack of funds. Then when the then rail minister Suresh Prabhu finally sanctioned an amount of Rs 12 crore, tenders were invited but none was passed allegedly from February 2017 to the day the terrible stampede happened. Is it a space mission to Mars for it to take so long? I want to know which officials were sitting on that particular file? May we at least know their names? They are the ones responsible for the deaths of those innocent 24 who had their photographs taken with a number stamp on their foreheads. No dignity in life and none in death! May we stamp the foreheads of those lazy, corrupt officials who did nothing about that fateful tender with at least a “Murderer”? Why does passing a tender for a `12 crore bridge take over seven months? Why do these irresponsible bureaucrats keep ignoring files related to the basic infrastructural necessities of Mumbai? Is it because the amount of money involved doesn’t make it lucrative for contractors, bureaucrats, corporators and ministers? Is corruption the root cause for the repetitive, needless loss of lives in Mumbai?
Is there nobody accountable for this mess? While Mumbaikars die we never see any heads rolling. Some officials at a low level are suspended or transferred while all we get is “deepest condolences to those who lost their lives.” It is sick! What these corrupt officials and politicians have done systematically is to corrode Mumbai from inside while they announce big projects to “beautify” her. There are more chances to earn out of the misery of the common man in big infrastructural plans rather than small, effective changes that really make a difference. We would rather have better trains, better roads. We do not need to spend crores on statues, bullet trains and metros. We need to protect our mangroves, green spaces
and de-silt and clean up our lakes. We do not need to show off, we need to make it easy to live. Mumbai just cannot take more people. I’m not saying this in a narrow, parochial way, but it is more than bursting at the seams. We have to find ways of reducing the load on Mumbai. It does not have enough civic amenities for half the people living in it. It is embarrassing that we do not talk about this enough. The daily life of a common Mumbaikar is excruciatingly painful and death comes cheap. Our tax money is used by politicians to dole out compensations to the families of the injured or those who’ve lost their kin as if it was coming out of their own pockets. It’s shameful how our tax money is used as “blood money” rather than it being used effectively to make living less difficult and to avoid deaths.
All those who think of filling their pockets at the expense of this city, you have the blood of the common people on your hands. Every time you use substandard quality of materials for roads, bridges and trains you end up murdering the common Mumbaikar. Everyone of you who sit on files, bargaining the amount you will gain out of any contract nefariously, you are the reason why our city is what it is today, and the picture is pathetic. Hope you’ve been able to sleep after the deaths of people due to potholes, waterlogging, floods, or the horrendous stampede on Elphinstone Road FOB.Will everything become magically alright once Elphinstone is renamed Prabhadevi? No! Mumbai is called Maximum City. What a joke! Have you ever heard of a Maximum City with minimal or practically no governance? Have you ever heard of a Maximum City with minimal benefits?
It is utterly shameful that Mumbai, our financial capital, city of the biggest corporates, city of Bollywood, city inhabited by the richest families in India, maximum tax provider in the entire country is given such short shrift. Poor Mumbai is the milch cow of our country. Shouldn’t we protect this cow as well?