Noel Ellis's Official Blog

I wield the pen to explore the vastness of the human mind

Category: INFRASTRUCTURE

IN CONVERSATION WITH CATHERINE

Catherine and I were driving down to Alibaug over the weekend when we struck up a conversation. I was listening to the stereo and my wife was appreciating the music system and the stereo effects. Catherine was not enjoying the drive at all; actually the same was the case with me. Reasons were many. One was the dilapidated condition of the road and the pot holes. Besides, the village dogs accosting us barking at their loudest and snarling with their dirty teeth. Hens along with their chicks thought the road was for them.  Worst of all was the chaotic traffic jams. Above all the weekend crowd who were pouring into our territory by the dozens. They were blocking traffic in garb of purchasing something or asking for directions in these narrow alleys. Quite a frustrating kind of a drive it was all in low gear.

I ignored her and kept my concentration on driving but there were pieces of the conversation which kept striking me again and again as she asked me the first question. Have you paid road tax? I said yes and that to a hefty amount. After a pause she asked me, why are there so many pot holes then? I had no answer. She told me, Noel, please take me out on a long and majestic drive, where the road surface is smooth, maybe on expressways where the thrill of driving can be enjoyed. It appears that here every time we venture out she is worried about checking out how long will the suspension hold and she told me that this way it won’t take long to give away. I just kept quiet and listened.

The next question she asked me that do you pay toll tax? I told her yes and where ever my ID card works I don’t. She said never mind, you have actually paid life time toll tax by serving the Indian Army, so I won’t ask you again, however, she continued to say that where does this toll money  collected  from the other vehicles disappear. I said I don’t know and continued focusing on the oncoming traffic and the huge potholes.

I was wondering to myself, that last year I saw lot of work going on this road. I used to have a smooth ride but where has the road vanished. This must be happening year after year and taxes which were being collected going down the drain. I again started to listen to the stereo and this time I changed the channel of my choice. I got lost in the music and lyrics as we were getting close to our destination.

Catherine was in a chirpy mood and threw another question at me. She said do you pay income tax? I replied in the affirmative. I am sure that some portion of that must also be allocated to the development of infrastructure in this country. I said surely it must be the case, I am not sure of the percentages. She appeared to be questioning the government head on. She continued to quiz me, see why there are so many accidents on the road? I said reckless driving! She said yes, just then two bikes whizzed past overtaking us from the wrong side and missed hitting us by a whisker. The basic reason is that the infrastructure is not being planned as per our expansion of population she said. I could not agree with her more. Her observation was that our population is exploding and so is purchase of vehicles but government is not making better and broader roads. I said yes. After a while she said, it is time for the government to wake up and I just kept mum.

A little ahead Catherine again poked me. I said now what and she said, you pay income tax, professional tax, GST and all the other taxes which the tax man can think of. I replied to her that it appears that you have got hold of a book on finance. She wanted to know where each and every pie went. I actually didn’t know. I looked at the setting sun from out of the window and thought to myself that yes she is right; over these years I couldn’t even hide one paisa of my income and all my taxes go down the drain, without much of accountability and returns.

At last Catherine blurted, I don’t want to be a dented and painted car for no fault of mine. I told her that I shall definitely convey her concerns to the people who matter. I then requested her to just keep quiet for a while as my wife watched the moon rise from the other side. I switched over to John Denver singing “Country Roads, take me home”, on the car stereo.

JAI HIND

ELPHINSTONE TRAGEDY

23 people died in a foot over bridge stampede and no heads roll. Ministers come and ministers go no heads roll, BMC may be ruled by BJP or Shiv Sena no heads roll, length and speed of trains keep increasing no heads roll, responsibility is of the railways or the state government, the blame game will continue. All those responsible who gave statements to the media appeared so serious that it appeared before their interview would be over there would be new broad FOBs at all congested places. Population of the city is increasing; infrastructure is collapsing no heads roll. Mumbai will never stop, even if heads roll or don’t roll. That is the spirit of this city.

I read somewhere that everyday there are about 30 deaths on the tracks due to people not using the FOBs. Here people are using it and still we lose so many. What does one do?  Who do we blame for those deaths? Is it the paucity of time? Is it the pressure of the job? Why is there such a hurry or rush? Why do people have to take short cuts? Is it in our blood? Is it that we assume we can beat the train? Are we so overconfident that nothing can happen to us? Of course some people do commit suicide. If the trains are slow there is an issue, if they are fast then there is an issue, if they are less then there is an issue, if you increase their numbers or the bogies then there are chances of a stampede. Leave alone the normal trains even the ladies specials are a sight to witness where everyone wants to be on this very train. The term DHAKKA-MUKKI can be experienced in such situations first hand.

Say if I have to reach my office at 9 and it takes one hour from my place of residence to reach then I need to take the train between 7.30 and 8 am. If everyone takes the same train then how can all commuters get accommodated together? Say if the capacity of the station is to handle 2 to 3 trains at a time and double the number land up, is it humanly possible for all passengers to mount or alight at the same time. The people who have to board the train don’t let the people who want to get down. Pushing is both ways. How can such a situations be tackled? Can the railways delay the arrival of one train by a minute? If they do it their track record will go for a six. The DRM will skin the people alive; the motorman will get a penalty, the station master a reprimand. Ultimately who suffers, it is the poor commuter.

If we tell corporate to stagger their office timings, how many are willing to do so? People of Nalasopara or Virar will have to get up at 4 am if their office is in Colaba or Cuff parade starts at 8am. Similarly, the offices which generally close at 6 pm will shut shop at 9 pm. Think about the ladies who have a family to look after. Think about their husbands who will be working too. Their children will have to stay alone in this mad bad world, besides girls are not safe in Mumbai. If they are travelling late, God save them. There are solutions but who will implement them. The only way out is survival of the fittest in a place called Mumbai? As it is there is no life for the common man who struggles day in and day out in these trains.

At peak hours if you are at Churchgate, VT, Dadar or Andheri, it is a nightmare folks. I still haven’t dared to mount a local ever in my ten years in and around Mumbai. I would rather pay a kali-peeli extra even if it gets stuck in traffic, or walk home rather than rub my shoulders in a local train and smell the various fragrances emanating from the arm pits staring in your face. One is also not sure to find his purse or mobile at the next station. God forbid if you are near the exit or a window; you may be hit by a flying object.

The local politics on the train one learns fast. You dare sit on a seat of a daily commuter and you shall be treated to the best of adjectives. Dare you mount a ladies compartment; besides being arrested on all charges by the GRP you would hear the latest and choicest of abuses. Chances are that you will be kicked out at the entrance itself. This often happens to novices. Dare you climb a first class compartment with a second class ticket; you will have an experience of your life time. All this my friends have narrated so I know.

The stories are endless and this Mumbai world is cruel. The railways are heartless they just carry passengers; the BMC is aimless as they can’t even fill pot holes. The passengers are incorrigible. The infrastructure is pathetic and crumbling. The population is bursting at its seams. Above all people are dying for lack of amenities and non adherence to safety procedures. Most due to negligence and maximum because of the apathy of the various governmental agencies call it the railways or the State Government or the municipality.  Everyone has their own agenda.

Audits should have been done ages back, with every increase of train or passenger coach the proportionate infrastructure should be catered for. Budget should be earmarked and allocated. This drama of tender also needs to be looked into. There are too many red tapes, too many hindrances’, too many people with lackadaisical attitude working for the people of Mumbai.

My condolences to the bereaved families, if heads do not roll now then people know how to get heads rolling. I hope all concerned are listening. I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

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