Citizens' Issues
Public Interest Exclusive
One more flyover: This time from the BMC!

The BMC is proposing to construct a 1.3 km Ghatkopar-Mankhurd viaduct. Is the flyover being planned with the intention of increasing mobility of people or motor cars?

After the commencement of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP), a partially World Bank funded project, the Government of Maharashtra (GoMah) embarked on improvement of road infrastructure with the intent to improve the growing road congestions in Greater Mumbai. This was being done through its metropolitan regional planning entity called Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) bypassing the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. The planning entity was also given the mandate to execute the near about Rs2,500 crore project called Mumbai Urban Infrastructure Project (MUIP).
The plans were put down by MMRDA and approved by the GoMah, subverting the essence of democratic process where the local urban body was denied the right to determine its pattern of development, going contrary to the Constitution, especially after the 74th Constitution Amendment Act was passed in the 1992.

Why is the state government usurping the democratic self governing ethos by doing things precisely in an unaccountable manner? After all it is only the cabinet that clears the actions or proposals of MMRDA and MMRDA comprise of only ‘experts’ in urban and town planning; besides how many in the cabinet are from the city? If one looks at number of members of the legislative assembly, it is substantial—36—good enough to determine which party can come to power, but not strong enough to be in the cabinet that could give vent to the aspirations of the city-dwellers.

The latest news is that Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM i.e. BMC) is proposing to construct a 1.3 km Ghatkopar-Mankhurd viaduct.

There was a time in the developed countries when they thought of mobility can and has to be achieved through use of motorized personal transport. As the need of roads increased, they began providing more roads and grade separators by way of flyovers and viaducts. They have realized to their dismay that such infrastructure does not help in mobility of the people. They only accentuate additional problems such as noise and air pollution and the need for parking infrastructure. They also realized that the congestion point only shifts and distance to be driven increases. Whereas speeds did increase, casualty figures in accidents also increased. Therefore, fundamentally, a flyover is not such a good idea. In fact in Seoul, they even dismantled a flyover and restored a canal and made it accessible open public space with emphasis to public transport, BRTS in particular. It requires courage to do some introspection and decide what public good is. It took a while and plenty of public consultations before the final decision.

Penalosa, erstwhile mayor of Bogota, Columbia took courage to implement various public friendly projects including the Transmilenio BRTS while exercising his elected mandate to self govern his city.

The next question to ask is, is the flyover being planned with the intention of increasing mobility of people or motor cars? If it is the former, has the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) been considered in working out details. Since BRTS for Mumbai seems to have been shelved by GoMah for unknown reasons, the subject of flyover obviously would have been thought out with motor cars central to the problem to be addressed.

It is a positive sign that Uddhav Thackeray has taken the position to reassert the right of a local self government. In the coming two years, the BMC can perform well and should by asserting itself. BRTS, if one analyses dispassionately, is the only option we have to overcome the current road jams and provide mobility to the masses and an option to move out of congestion and associated problems to those using motorized personal vehicles.
If putting up the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd viaduct is to show reassertion of political will of the Mumbaikar, then it should be welcomed. It would also be politically as well as technically sound if this viaduct as well as all physical infrastructures the BMC wish to take up are with walking, cycling and BRTS central to it.

(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). He is member of the Committee Constituted by the Bombay High Court for making the Railways, especially the Suburban Railways System Friendly towards Persons with Disability (2011- ). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted at [email protected])




5 years ago

I agree that elected reps need to be given their say in matters affecting the electorate. Whether they or even unelected expert bodies use their voices/power to decide wisely ,is another matter. The skywalks all over Mumbai are monstrocities, hardly, ever used, cluttering the urbanscape, devoid of any aesthetics, and perhaps have only helped powers that be to line their pockets. Today's TOI has an article of how various flyovers are either useless in decogesting traffic or are overcrowded. What I fail to understand in that write-up is ;if flyovers are not fully loaded they are being considered useless and if they are fully loaded they are considered inadequate. So what in the expert's view is optimum utility of flyovers? Finally irrespective of who decides, is there a scientific method being followed in arriving at optimal solutions, where all the assumptions made in projects are actually tested on the ground for reality checks? Navi Mumbai authorities have announced 5 flyovers in Palm Beach road where traffic considerations hardly merit so many? Again who decides, what studies have been done, no public participation? Where is governance?


5 years ago

Sudhir, thanks for your insights. However, I seem to remember from a previous article as well that even though you are part of the MMRDA's technical committee, you always seem to espouse giving power back to the BMC vs the MMRDA. But this betrays the fact that the BMC has shown itself to be one of the most incompetent authorities when it comes to basic amenities like roads (even Marine Drive has potholes), water supply etc.


Sudhir Badami

In Reply to Anonymous 5 years ago

We as citizens, elect our representatives to BMC. They are supposed to be governing our city. Do they? Or are they allowed to do so? There are cycles of better conditions and worsening conditions. Bad things get remembered and good things are taken for granted. I believe in democratically arrived at decisions or at least, under our governance structure, decisions or proposals ratified by democratically elected bodies. It is clear that MMRDA, a planning agency decides and await GoMah approval without going to people of people's elected representatives. BMC has to pass resolutions in Standing Committees etc In case of MMRDA, it is the cabinet that decides and as I have mentioned, how many from Mumbai are in the cabinet and have voice?

It does not matter whether I am on GoMah, BMC, MMRDA or Court Committee. We have to make our democratic institution strong and effective.

Spending Rs 600 odd Cr on skywalks, putting in motion, the Metro and Monorail projects of the costs without any public discussions, due-diligence and public scrutiny is why they all have not progressed well. Incompetence is not monopoly of BMC alone. It runs all over and hence it is best to be incompetent democratically than incompetence imposed by some 'competent' persons!

It is also unfair to write anonymously if you think you know me to be calling me by only the first name. The least you should do is to send me a seperate email if you wanted to be anonimous to the readers of this article.

Life Exclusive
Who will be the next President of India?

The person should have the qualities of the first three presidents of India, or should be adept at land–grabbing. The writer takes a light-hearted look at the probable front-runners

Who is to be the next President of India? Difficult question and the answers I will try to give are from the common man’s point of view; nothing political about them.

What qualities should a President of India possess? Not a difficult question. The person should have the qualities of Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, Dr S Radhakrishnan, the second president of India or Dr Zakir Hussain, the third President. Or the new president should be adept at land-grabbing.

The difficult part is finding people of the calibre of these three gems who were the first three presidents of India. So, let’s forget about quality.

And if we were to consider the qualities of the last president (the current incumbent), we will be flooded with eligible candidates. It will impossible to choose, even using Nandan Nilekani’s UIDAI computers, with some help thrown in by Visa and MasterCard.

There is one big (physically small) speed-breaker: Mamata Banerjee alias Didi alias Shrek …sorry…Shriek. Anyone we choose must not dissatisfy her. Mamata will appreciate the double negative; she believes in shouting ‘No’ as the first response to any proposal and since she is firm that she will have the last word, she will end out debate with a louder shriek of ‘No’ which Jayalalithaa can hear in Fort St George in Chennai, without a telephone.

Where Mamata is involved, India is a ‘democrazy’, as one newspaper put it. Her view is equal to a hundred Electoral College votes. By her diktats (as I imagine them) we cannot have anyone west of West Bengal; it would be an insult to the Bengali bhadraloks and, worse, proof of a CPM conspiracy. And we can have Pranab because that would again be a CPM plot.

Mamata however has backed Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar for president. Meira has one strong qualification. The Times of India carried a story today that in the four years since she became Speaker she has gone abroad once in 37 days. The Times was quoting a reply to an RTI query which showed that most of time she went to Switzerland and other countries like the Bahamas which have salubrious climates.

The President of India has to make many official trips abroad. Meira should be fine with that arduous duty since she has a lot of experience.

Pranab Mukherjee is the front-runner for the Congress. The question is: Will he be more useful in Rashtrapati Bhavan as president or in North Block as finance minister? To the Congress, Rashtrapati Bhavan is a better place for Pranab, considering what is going to happen in the 2014 general elections.

There is bound to be a hung Parliament and it is always better for the referee to be your man.

Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik are rooting for PA Sangma. I think the BJP too is in favour of the former Speaker of the Lok Sabha; naturally it would be since it cannot support Pranab Mukherjee.

Sangma had a good run as a Speaker, guiding the Lok Sabha well during the rule of the ‘kichdi’ coalitions at the end of the 20th century. He also has a good sense of humour. With his qualities, he may be able to steal people’s hearts rather than their land.

(R Vijayaraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch the Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at [email protected].)




5 years ago

Good article thanks, but from here in Delhi, taxiis are not available because every taxi is on President candidate support services duty, because it seems that Naveen Patnaik has not much to do anymore because his complete State is now Maoist and so because he is available, everyday somebody or the other goes to Naveen Patnaik to share a cup of tea or single malt in the evening and then says that see such and such should be President because we have never had a President from that place, so like I can also go and say that there has never been a President from DefCol/Jangpura flyover and Naveen Patnaik will say OKOK you are today's candidate then we call some friends from television and then all OB vans will chase me for the full day as I go from here to there with endorsement by Naveen Patnaik and breaking news and spot news will go all over the place and till evening that is how it is we should have one new President every day at least that way economy of Delhi will improve humbly submitted but now I have to go because otherwise wife is beating me.a2k4m


5 years ago

Why not Lallu? He will keep the parliament in good humor. And in case he were to be prosecuted the services of Rabri Devi would be immediately available.

Economy & Nation Exclusive
Kumar Birla’s Living Media investment is a bet on a sunset sector

Kumar Mangalam Birla’s investments in “sunrise” sectors over the last decade have been garments, retailing, telecom, financial services and software. All these have fetched very poor returns. Now comes his investment in the messy, unprofitable and sunset media sector

Kumar Mangalam Birla has just bought a 27.5% stake in the Living Media group which publishes a clutch of magazines such as India Today, Business Today, Cosmopolitan and so on. The group also runs channels like TV Today, Aaj Tak and has a printing press called Thomson Press. The acquisition was done through Kumar Birla’s private investment company. While announcing the stake buy, Kumar Birla said “The media sector is a sunrise sector from an investment point of view. I believe that Living Media India offers one of the best opportunities for growth and value creation.” Both these are questionable. If you look at the balance sheets of all but a few of the largest companies, the media looks like a sunset sector and Living Media not exactly in the pink of health.

Mercifully, shareholders of Indian Rayon and Aditya Birla Nuvo have been spared of this adventurism. Aroon Purie, a chartered accountant who controls the India Today group, has so far kept Living Media and Thomson Press private, and has publicly listed only TV Today.

According to the data we have of 2010, Living Media made a loss of Rs12 crore for March that year. In fact, all except some English publications like the Times of India, Hindustan Times and the leading regional publications (like Malayam Manorama or Ananda Bazar Patrika) are losing money—as are top TV channels like NDTV and TV18.

If Mr Birla genuinely believes that media is a sunrise business, the question is how many times will Mr Birla get carried away by trying to invest in so-called sunrise sectors?

Kumar Birla has been dreaming of sunrise sectors for over a decade now—ever since he inherited the old fashioned metals, cement and textiles businesses when his father Aditya Birla passed away in 1995. He entered the telecom business (Idea Telecom), financial services (Birla Sunlife Mutual Fund and Birla Sunlife Insurance), sold stock the broking business and later bought again (Apollo Sindhoori) and took over the garments business of Madura Coats, paying Rs235 crore to acquire Van Heusen, Louis Phillipe, Allen Solly, Peter England and started a retailing business.

Among the sunrise businesses he had identified in 2001, was software. In June 2001 Indian Rayon bought 50.35% controlling stake from France’s Groupe Bull in PSI Data Systems (PSI) at a price of Rs186.80 per share in cash—costing Rs71 crore.  Commenting on the deal, at time, Kumar Mangalam Birla had said “This strategic foray into the technology sector is part of a well-crafted plan to enhance value for Indian Rayon shareholders, through significant rise in growth and earnings. Our aspiration is to attain a leadership position in this sector.” While spending Indian Rayon’s money in buying PSI and Madura garments, Kumar Birla had also declared that the company has undergone a major change in profile by getting into businesses in which “knowledge and branding are key”. That sounded like a powerful wish but was it grounded in reality? In June 2003, Mr Birla even went into the low-margin business of call centres by buying Transworks. The outcome? PSI Data got delisted in March 2009, after destroying 60% of shareholders’ wealth over eight years. Madura Garments hardly makes any money consistently.

The fact is, like the media Mr Birla is willing to fund now, all these businesses—garments, software, IT services, financial services and retailing, telecom— were also described as sunrise businesses and were claimed to be value creating. None of these have delivered return on capital that justified investments in them. Mr Birla’s attempt to make over the commodity-oriented group, through an entry into the glamorous businesses has added to the group’s profile but not much to its bottomline. All these new-gen businesses are limping because they need focused and innovative entrepreneurship while Mr Birla’s principal strength is access to capital.

Possibly chastened by the financial outcome of these dubious forays, Mr Birla has decided not to use public-listed companies to finance his media wish. In that sense, his private investment in Living Media marks a departure from his earlier adventures. He will be a passive and personal investor in an unlisted company. That doesn’t answer a key question: Will he again be throwing good money after bad having fallen for glamour? That depends on how well he understands the media business.

The economics of the media business in India is completely been vitiated over the past decade or so. It is not a business where the more efficient thrive. It is not a business which is delivering improved quality of products and services to masses. Indeed, many of the better media companies are financially crippled today because the competition for advertising revenues is too intense. So, why doesn’t the supply of media products and companies shrink?  Because poor quality media companies are not pushed to the wall and do not go out of business. Their losses are supported by politicians and businessmen for their own vested interests. Why have three new daily newspapers sprung up in a poor state like West Bengal over the last two years? If there was ever a sunset business, it is media, especially the print part, which is core of Living Media. And Aroon Purie has publicly stated that the promise of digital media is overblown. Kumar Mangalam Birla seems to have not only got carried away once again in his quest for sunrise sector but this investment is surely one of his worst.




5 years ago

ear sucheta

will you only invest in companies which are Profitable, then why did you start Money Life, as a Non profitable organisation and trying to empower investors..

you should understand Media is not just for making profit or Money, they have a social responsibilty , by doing this resposibly and honestly, everybody cant make Money. Mr.Birla Put money into INDIA TODAY Group not for getting dividends. its his responsibilty to support an indepentant media house to survive in the

Shibaji Dash

5 years ago

The Committee on Corporate Governance was constituted a decade or so ago under the Chairmanship of KMB. The report was submitted.At that time the name KMB sort of spelt magic. Today, sadly, it does not.Some of the reasons are embedded in the views expressed so far. One wonders why the health care sector which has only two major players with limited share of this promising niche market did not tickle the imagination of KMB.


nagesh kini

In Reply to Shibaji Dash 5 years ago

Are Birla's not major stakeholders in health care with Bombay Hospital?

Nagesh Kini

5 years ago

Narayan Murthy of Infosys also got on the board of NDTV and exit too?


5 years ago

I think, this is one of the best analysis of how best one can waste money. thanks ML for highlighting the poor vision of KMB. The typical born with a silver spoon, and their cronies like Manali think like they knew everything and they are the wisest. Unfortunately, when it comes to balance sheets, they have been proved ingorant all the time. Isnt it time for the likes of KMB and Manali to take a break. Grow up...

jayesh Shah

5 years ago

I agree... I was idly glancing through the comments and remembered that this is not the first time Birla had lost money. In fact there was something in Birla Money.
Here is a link:

And I found it in moneycontrol as well - so you were not alone in trashing him


5 years ago

I was not surprised abt this move of Mr Birla.He has habit of doing this often.Initially he written off 100 cr investment made in carbon project then the famous MRBPL sell @ Rs:2/= to ONGC.So still investors go for his companies,they deserve to loose.


5 years ago

Excellent facts and analysis

IT professional

5 years ago

Birla IT foray as Birla Consultancy Service (renamed Birla Technologies) was disaster. PSI was dud acquisition.

Manali Rohinesh

5 years ago

A well argued article..but if Mr Birla had offered MoneyLife his cash..would you have turned him down? You have one magazine which is mostly read online by readers like me, who chose to read you in the first place! India Today has everything from Harvard Business Review to Reader's Digest to one of the best current news magazines in the country. So, while they can't point to a healthy balancesheet at the moment, they have still been around longer than MoneyLife. So, when MoneyLife completes 30+ years in good health and then gets a little vital cash infusion, due to wear and tear, no one would grudge it that.

As for whether it makes business sense or not, well a lot of businesses run on debts and loans and refinancing. What are banks there for? They certainly don't only survive on peddling loans and products to me!!


shanta kulkarni

In Reply to Manali Rohinesh 5 years ago

What is your point, if any?

Or are you not getting the fact that this is about Kumar Birla not about living media...

Manali Rohinesh

In Reply to shanta kulkarni 5 years ago

It's about Kumar Birla's investment in Living Media and my point is 'It's his money and others would have been happy to take it too'. Wasn't that clear to you? And to emphasize it a little more clearly...other media companies with less pull and products out there would love to be in Living Media's place.


In Reply to Manali Rohinesh 5 years ago

And so kumar birla will throw it?
Did you understand the point of the piece?
its not about living media, about birla.

Ravi Shyam

5 years ago

Since its inception Moneylife has stayed focussed on issues that matter and helping its readers get sensitised to the realities that surround us. While investors interest and welfare has been its core thrust,this article armed with irrefutable facts brings out the case that this investment is one of due negligence and certainly not of due deligence!



In Reply to Ravi Shyam 5 years ago

Couldn't agree more.

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