The next 100-day agenda for Prithviraj Chavan, the CM of Maharashtra (Part II)

Transportation is a critical issue in Mumbai that the state chief minister will have to sought out on a priority basis, beginning with initiating a road maintenance and management system. Another important issue is completing the coastal zone management plan 

Mumbai, like many cities in India, is full of infrastructure news, all confusing to one and all. Take the example of roads. About 1,950 km of roads are under the ownership of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), while some come under Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) for construction and some under the ownership of Public Works Department (PWD). Some fall under the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and some stretches belong to the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT). Some roads planned or built in colonies do get transferred to MCGM. Street lighting and underground utility services are managed by agencies in addition to these organisations.

Most of the flyovers were constructed by MSRDC and are being maintained by it, while some have been done by MCGM. Lately, some have been planned and constructed by MMRDA. In MMRDA itself, some works are handled by the Transport & Communication Division, actually a transportation planning group, and some by the Engineering Division.

The foot over bridges (FOBs) and road over bridges (ROBs) are usually over railway lines and these are managed by the Railways-planning, design, approval, construction and maintenance (PDACM)-further by Central Railway and Western Railway. Some are over roads; those which are PDACM by MMRDA have a newly-coined name, "Skywalks", while some are by MCGM, MSRDC, etc, known simply as road FOB.

There is much to be desired in the quality of design details, construction and maintenance of footpaths, FOBs, carriageways, road markings, clarity of signals and signage. Trees and fire hydrants pose impediments to pedestrians. Manhole covers go missing, albeit in small percentage, but need to be replaced promptly to avert fatal accidents. Safety norms and construction specifications are seldom followed during construction or trenching for utility repairs and reinstatement of road. Roads are closely linked with drainage and flooding causes damage to roads, especially during the monsoon.

The emergence of potholes is a serious issue. It not only slows down traffic flow but is also a cause of spinal problems-it is a health hazard. The Bombay High Court appointed a Road Monitoring Committee (RMC) to monitor the condition of roads in order to tackle this problem. It became a one-point complaints centre, forwarding the complaints to the appropriate agency and assessing the responses on the ground. It had suggested that an internet based Road Maintenance and Management System (RMMS) be designed and implemented for all roads and associated works and that MCGM should be designated as the nodal agency to execute this RMMS. This must be an item on the priority list as it will help deal with the monsoon potholes on roads and make commuting less arduous and hazardous.

As regards transportation in Mumbai is concerned, and in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), there are a lot more stakeholders who come into the picture, such as the six additional Municipal Corporations, 13 Municipal Councils and near about 900 villages. The Traffic Police also comes into the picture, as well as para-transits and their unions. The two railways and now the Metro Rail and Monorail too, adorn the canvas. To co-ordinate various elements in planning and execution, the establishment of a unified metropolitan transport authority (UMTA) is necessary. An initiative was taken by the Government of Maharashtra in forming the Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMMTA) for MMR two and a half years back, but it has been in hibernation. Getting this reactivated and having citizens on the committees should be on the priority list.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has issued a Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) Notification 2011 superseding the CRZ Notification 1991. There have been quite a few things that have been relaxed in the recent order, subject to certain pre-conditions of monitoring in a definite time frame. Governments of states that have coastal areas have to put in place mechanisms that will enable effective and efficient monitoring of compliance of the CRZ notification. There are some special provisions for Greater Mumbai, Goa and Kerala which take into consideration local issues, which promote redevelopment with safeguards.

Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has to put these monitoring mechanisms in place within the next 100 days. Therefore, these are also on the priority list. What these are, need to be elaborated, so that we can get on with specific infrastructure projects, connected specifically with Mumbai, in the next article.

1. Begin work on "Demarcation of the High Tide Line" and complete it by December 2011.

2. Begin with planning and implementing schemes, to ensure discharge of treated effluents and wastes into the sea, dispensing with the current practice of discharging untreated effluent and wastes in a phased manner by December 2012.

3. Begin drafting and complete the Draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) after due public consultations, identifying and classifying CRZ areas as per the CRZ Notification 2011 by 8 May 2011. After obtaining recommendations from MoEF, get suggestions and objections from stakeholders, submit the draft CZMP incorporating all these, and get approved for CZMP in six months.

4. Project proponent's application needs to be commented upon within 60 days for compliance with CRZ Notification 2011 and after incorporating the recommendations, the Coastal Zone Management Authority or State Environment Impact Assessment Authority needs to clear the project in another 60 days. The project proponent has to submit half-yearly compliance report, which has to be put in the public domain. The mechanism needs to be put in place to do all this and action must be taken against non-compliance. The first compliance report by project proponent is due on 1 June 2011.  Until the CZMP complying with CRZ Notification 2011 is approved, the monitoring shall have to be in accordance with the CRZ Notification 1991. Validity of CZMP under CRZ 1991 shall not be beyond 8 January 2013.

Thus, Prithviraj Chavan has to put in place the following in the next 100 days:

1. Discard the Surbana Consultant's "Concept Plan for MMR for 2052" and initiate planning of a people-oriented, culturally and financially vibrant Megapolis of Mumbai, not forgetting that this Megapolis is an integral part of Maharashtra and the Indian nation. (Read, 'Mr Chief Minister, the proposed Concept Plan for Mumbai is flawed'.)

2. Get internet-based, transparent Road Maintenance and Management System initiated and incorporated.

3. Get Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority reactivated so that all infrastructure projects can get executed with proper coordination.

4. Set up all mechanisms to ensure that all projects get executed in compliance with CRZ Notification 2011 and information is made available in the public domain.

In the final part of this series on the priority task for Mumbai before the chief minister, we shall look into the status of specific projects and initiatives the Government of Maharashtra has taken up, which Prithviraj Chavan will have make sure they progress effectively.

[This is the second part of a series by Sudhir Badami. To read the first part, click 'The next 100-day agenda for Prithviraj Chavan, the CM of Maharashtra (Part I)'.]

(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on the Government of Maharashtra's Steering Committee on Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) for Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's (MMRDA) technical advisory committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of the Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMMTA). He was a member of the Bombay High Court-appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). He has been an active campaigner against noise pollution for over a decade and he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected])


India e-commerce market to cross Rs46,000 crore by December end

Barring few services such as online ticketing, Indian consumers aren't shopping online. Large numbers of surfers use the Internet to look for information about the product or service they want to buy followed by a physical visit to a shop for buying

Kolkata: Fuelled by the sustained growth of the online travel industry, the Indian e-commerce market will gallop at an impressive growth rate of 47% to over Rs46,000 crore in the 2011 calendar year, reports PTI.

"This growth is primarily driven by the online travel industry, which contributes 76% to the total net commerce industry in India today," a report released by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said.

The Internet commerce industry in India has seen a manifold increase in the last couple of years, with the total market size increasing from Rs19,688 crore by the end of 2009 to an estimated Rs31,598 crore in 2010.

By the end of 2011, the net commerce market size is expected to grow by 47% and touch Rs46,520 crore, the study by the industry body said.

Comprising about 81% of the total e-commerce in the country, the online travel market, which includes booking rail and air tickets, hotel accommodations and tour packages, is estimated to grow by 50% and touch Rs37,890 crore by December 2011.

In the travel portfolio, which was worth Rs14,953 crore in 2009, domestic air travel contributed 63%, followed by railway tickets (28%).

Others, such as international air travel (Rs548 crore), hotel bookings (Rs308 crore), bus tickets (Rs294 crore), tour packages (Rs86 crore) and travel insurance (Rs52 crore), contributed the balance 9% of the total online travel market.

Another area that has shown significant growth is the financial services market, such as online insurance payments and transactions through trading accounts, which grew from Rs1,540 crore to an estimated Rs 2,000 crore during the one-year period ending December 2010.

Comprising 8% of the e-commerce market, this sector is expected to grow by 34% and touch Rs2,650 crore this calendar year.

The report also highlights that other areas like digital downloads and e-retailing are showing promise and growing rapidly.

These sectors are predicted to grow by 62% and touch Rs1,100 crore and Rs2,700 crore, respectively, this year.

E-tailing, which includes purchases of durable products such as electronic items, home and kitchen appliances, as well as personal items like apparels and jewellery, constitutes 8% of the overall e-commerce market in the country.

Bullish on the growth prospects of the online market, the report, however, observed that in the last few years, online spending has been skewed toward specific categories such as travel or certain products in e-tailing.

"This behaviour has evolved recently and is expected to blanket different kinds of products and services purchased over the Internet and mobile networks. While online travel will continue to comprise a major proportion of the overall market, e-tailing and digital downloads could experience a high growth," it noted.

According to the study, around 7.4 million people in the country bought products over the Internet in 2009.

"Barring few services such as online ticketing, broadly speaking, Indian consumers aren't shopping online. Large numbers of surfers use the Internet to look for information about the product or service they want to buy followed by a physical visit to a shop for buying," it observed.

The IAMAI report was compiled based on primary research among Internet users in 15 cities, as well as secondary research for triangulating the findings from external sources.

User under attack from spammers

An increasing number of spammers have attacked the website, owned by Equitymaster Agora Research Pvt Ltd. This jammed website became reachable only after 1.30pm on Monday, which provides equity research and investment advisory services, said that its website has come under attack and will not be available till all the issues are resolved.

In an email, Rahul Goel, chief executive, Equitymaster, said, the company invests a lot of time and resources to ensure that its services are not compromised by ever-increasing online attacks.

"But this time the online attack is on a huge scale, much larger than what specialists thought could ever hit us. The only purpose of this attack, however, is to jam our website so that valued members like you are unable to access it. All your personal information (including email ID) is completely safe and secure," he added.

Mr Goel said that the company is working with its partners to resolve the issueat the earliest and till then its site will not became accessible only after 1.30pm on Monday.


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