Citizens' Issues
Road infrastructure must be planned with priority for pedestrians, non-motorised vehicle traffic

By placing another option to bring in motorcar mobility at Haji Ali, the government of Maharashtra is giving scant respect to democracy, where 95% of Mumbai’s population has to suffer. This is because the state government is not prioritizing road public transport in all its infrastructure development projects

The Mumbai Metro Line II, originally planned to run from Colaba to Charkop (about 40 km), with Colaba to Mahalaxmi as underground. The underground stretch that was extended in plan up to Bandra (around 20 km) was changed to Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd (about 35 km), all elevated. This was done primarily due to cost considerations. As per a detailed article by the author in 2006, the underground stretch costing Rs975 crore per km would have touched Rs19,500 crore, in addition to elevated section costing about Rs4,000 crore, thus exceeding the entire projected cost of Rs19,525 crore for the 146.5km of Mumbai Metro Master Plan of 2004. This proves not just an error but falsity in estimates projections to get the Metro Master Plan cleared by the Cabinet.

From the experience of ongoing Mumbai Metro Line I, anticipating adverse effect to quality of life and commercial activities, the residents and commercial establishments along Bandra-Andheri section had engaged Prof Dhingra, noted expert on transportation engineering from IIT Bombay, to independently verify their fears. Prof Dhingra’s report clearly established that Socio-Techno-Economic study directs that the Metro should be underground and not elevated. With adverse effect on commercial activities, it must be understood that the livelihood of many who are employed is also at stake. Considering this, the Mumbai Metro Line II was dropped, at least for the time being.

When Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation Ltd (MSRDC) was established by government of Maharashtra to prioritise urban area infrastructure, especially in Mumbai, among various flyovers, the Haji Ali to Wilson College viaduct was conceived. The route was Haji Ali, Tardeo, Nana’s Chowk and Wilson College. At some sections, it was in two layers. This would mean that all the southbound traffic would go via this route and definitely significantly add to the air and noise pollution on the route that already was having considerable traffic of its own. With time and increasing traffic, air and noise pollution would get worse. The residents and commercial establishments on this route protested. Thus far, the culture of public consultation did not exist in government planning. With people’s protests, government of Maharashtra, in 1999, decided to appoint a One Man Expert’s Committee, Prof Dhingra, to carry out feasibility study for mobility of motor cars from Haji Ali to Marine Drive (Wilson College).

The study considered five options. (i) Things as it is (and possibly considering one-way system with contra-flow-lane for bus routes), (ii) single deck flyovers, double decked at some stretches, over Haji Ali-Tardeo-Nana Chowk-Wilson College, (iii) single deck flyovers one over Haji Ali-Tardeo-Nana Chowk-Wilson College, and the other over Pedder Road-Babulnath-Wilson College. (iv) single deck flyover over Pedder Road-Babulnath-Wilson College route and (v) Several short flyovers at Haji Ali, Tardeo, Nana Chowk, Babulnath and Wilson College. The study directed to the option (iv) – the Pedder Road viaduct.

However, what has been ignored by the government and MSRDC is a strong recommendation of strengthening bus public transport. This was the time, when the Bogota Model of Bus Rapid Transit was in implementation stage, not operational stage.

We are all generally conversant with protests from Pedder Road residents. In order to pacify influential residents, MSRDC has held two ‘public consultations’ over the past decade. Politically, government is determined to establish that it is ‘supreme’, its actions are for public welfare and Pedder Road has become an issue for the state government to pursue with. On the other hand, residents have established that after the construction, neither would the temporary improvement in vehicular flow sustain and be significant nor would air and noise pollution, which will, in fact, deteriorate.

The Pedder Road residents looked for some alternatives that would improve the vehicular flow at Haji Ali. They have come up with an underpass concept that would not mar the aesthetics of Haji Ali junction while providing vehicular mobility. The through-tunnel concept is also being talked of. The latest idea is to provide a flyover from Haji Ali to Jaslok Hospital where the road is much wider and is not expected to cause congestion as is found generally along slip roads. This alternative is by MSRDC, clearly looking for government establishment of supremacy over citizens.

The 25kms Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) project that all along MSRDC was trying to get it moving off the ground without success was transferred to Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), another state-run agency, hoping that it would get on to execution stage. MMRDA too have not met with success so far.

The two state-run agencies work under two opposing political parties in the coalition government. Therefore, Pedder Road flyover has become ‘Brownie Points’ to score for MSRDC. They are fully determined to construct it.

In this muddle, what is lost out is the strong recommendation by Prof Dhingra for strengthening Road Public Transport in Mumbai.

The author has been consistently emphasising this, in his articles, utterances at the public consultations, his notes to the government and to the Ministry of Urban Development. There can be no improvement in road congestion levels in Mumbai, whether at Pedder Road or elsewhere, if priority is not given to mobility of people and not vehicular traffic. Efficient road public transport is possible by properly designed Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS).

Democracy is sham if 95% of on foot road and public transport users have to give in to the requirement of 3% population using motorcars, which is the main cause for congestion.

Whether it is the shortened Pedder Road flyover option or the “underpass” option or any option anywhere, road infrastructure must be planned with priority for pedestrians traffic, non-motorised vehicle traffic (since they exist and slowdown motorcar traffic) and the BRT. If this is not done, every road user has to suffer road congestion, air and noise pollution, and continue to contribute significantly to global warming and climate change. Do those in government understand this?

Citizen’s voices do get heard, and if government does not wish to hear it, the court of law exists, environment protection law exists and Right to Life, article 21 of Indian Constitution exists, which guarantees safe and comfortable life to its citizens. Choosing to keep quiet will only worsen the citizens’ plight.

(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])


The story behind ‘The Child Exchange’ in US

ProPublica reporter Marshall Allen sits down with Megan Twohey of Reuters to get the story behind "The Child Exchanges" investigation, which looked into how US families use Internet message boards to abandon difficult children adopted from other countries

Last week, Megan Twohey of Reuters published a major investigation about how American families use Internet message boards to abandon difficult children adopted from other countries. Twohey showed how exasperated families use Yahoo and Facebook groups to find new parents for the children they swore to take care of. And far too often, these children end up in homes where the guardians have not been approved to take care of children, where they can be sexually abused or put in surroundings that are dangerous for their well-being.

ProPublica reporter Marshall Allen sat down with Twohey to get the story behind the story of piecing "The Child Exchange" together. Asked to describe how she got started, Twohey said, "One of the most valuable things I think about this project is I worked with our database team. We basically did a deep dive on one of the Yahoo groups where this - it's called re-homing - activity takes place. And we scraped all 5,000 messages going back five years and built a database where we were able to quantify what was going on. We logged every single offer of a child that was being made over a 5-year period and we found that on average a child was being offered up once a week."

Twohey added, "It's interesting to note too that the term ‘re-homing’ was first used to describe people seeking new owners for their pets. And some of the ads read remarkably similar to the ads that you'd see for people trying to find a new home for their pet. Some of the ads would describe kids as being obedient, eager to please, or talk about them being pretty."

Read the five-part investigation at and you can listen to this podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.




RBI increases repo rate by 25 bps, cuts MSF rate to 9.5%

Raghuram Rajan, in his first monetary policy, has increased repo rate while reducing MSF or borrowing rate for banks by 0.75%

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in its mid-quarter credit policy review has reduced marginal standing facility (MSF) rate by 75 basis points (bps) to 9.5% and minimum daily maintenance of the cash reserve ratio (CRR) to 95% of the requirement from 99%. The central bank increased repo rate by 25bps to 7.5% with immediate effect. Consequently reverse repo rate and bank rates are adjusted to 6.5% and 9.5%, respectively. RBI has kept CRR unchanged at 4%.


"The policy stance and measures set out in this review begins the process of cautious unwinding of the exceptional measures, which will restore normalcy to financial flows. They are also intended to address inflationary pressures so as to provide a stable nominal anchor for the economy, thereby mitigating exchange market pressures and creating a conducive environment for the revitalisation of sustainable growth," RBI said in a statement.


There has been a lot of uncertainty regarding the RBI’s operative instruments (repo rate and MSF), its intended objectives (growth/inflation or forex volatility) as well as the policy stance of the new governor. "The new RBI under Dr Raghuram Rajan brings more clarity on the instrument (repo) versus objective (CPI inflation/inflation expectations), in contrast to the stealth tightening route followed thus far. For the economy, interest rates will likely be much higher than assumed thus far, and growth should be weaker in the near-term," said Nomura Financial Advisory and Securities (India) Pvt Ltd in a report.


India Ratings & Research said with the repo rate going up, MSF rate coming down and the minimum daily maintenance of CRR declining to 95%, it is mixed bag for the banks so far as their lending rates are concerned. However, the Fitch group company said, it does not expect any cut in the base rate of the banks.  On the contrary, in select cases, it might actually go up, the ratings agency added.


In a report, Standard Chartered Bank said, "...the unexpected policy rate hike and a strong hawkish bias are likely to dampen market sentiment, in our view. We believe these measures imply two things. First, the 9% appreciation in Indian rupee since the beginning of September, combined with the dovish FOMC, had comforted the RBI on the currency market. Second, with an uptick in WPI inflation, still elevated CPI inflation, and the risk of fiscal slippage, the RBI has shifted focus back to domestic factors. Indeed, the RBI has prepared the market for possible policy actions outside the scheduled policy meetings, if needed."


Since mid-July, the central bank has put in place a number of exceptional measures to tighten liquidity with a view to dampening volatility in the foreign exchange market. These measures have raised the effective policy rate for monetary policy operations to 10.25%, aligned to the re-calibrated MSF rate. The intent has been to maintain tight liquidity conditions at the short end of the term structure until the measures designed to alter the path of the current account deficit (CAD) and improve prospects for its stable funding take effect.


"As a number of these measures are now in place and because the external environment has improved, it is now possible for the Reserve Bank to contemplate easing these exceptional measures in a calibrated manner. As a first step, therefore, the MSF rate is reduced by 75 basis points. Furthermore, the minimum daily maintenance of the CRR prescribed by the Reserve Bank is brought down from 99% of the requirement to 95%. The timing and direction of further actions on exceptional measures will be contingent upon exchange market stability, and can be two-way. Further actions need not be announced only on policy dates. However, any further change in the minimum daily maintenance of the CRR is not contemplated," RBI said.


While appreciating the RBI's concern on inflation, industry body Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) said, this (inflation) is a supply side led issue and therefore, at this point of time, growth should have found priority for the central bank. "Industry would have liked reduction in headline rates. The reduction in MSF by 75 bps is encouraging as this is working as the short term interest rate. However, the increase in repo rate could have been avoided as industry is already reeling under pressures of high cost of capital and low availability in a tight liquidity situation," said, Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, CII.


Industry body ASSOCHAM said it believes that an eventual normalization of monetary policy by the RBI, in the form of cuts in the repo rate, is a necessary condition for improving sentiment and providing fillip to economic growth momentum. Rana Kapoor, president, ASSOCHAM, said, "Going forward, the monetary policy stance needs to take into account the lack of adequate growth momentum in the industrial and services sector along with sluggishness in domestic consumption. As Rupee moves towards levels consistent with economic fundamentals, the MSF rate should be aligned with the repo rate and lowered further to 8.50%."


Here are the highlights of RBI’s mid-quarter monetary policy review…


Key short-term lending rate (repo rate) hiked by 0.25% to 7.5%.


Borrowing rate for banks reduced under marginal standing facility by 0.75% to 9.5%.


Minimum daily liquidity maintenance of CRR eased to 95% from 99%.


Cash reserve ratio (CRR) maintained at 4%.


Maiden policy announcement by new RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan


Inflation worrisome, no room for complacency


WPI inflation will be higher than that projected for rest of the year.


Economic growth trailing below potential


Pace of infrastructure project completion subdued, new projects’ starts remain muted.


Next monetary policy review on 29th October 29


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