While the Moneylife report on the construction of a post-retirement bungalow for Pratibha Patil in Pune became viral in social media, the President's office came up with a denial which did not address the core issues, but was carried faithfully by the mainstream media
When the Moneylife report on the construction of a post-retirement bungalow for president Pratibha Patil in Pune President Pratibha Patil grabs 2,61,000 sq ft of land meant for soldiers and officers hit the internet running, it became viral in the social media, attracting even more damaging information on the activities of the president and her immediate family in Maharashtra. The mainstream media was slow to react, despite constantly being needled in the social media for ignoring what was public knowledge in Maharashtra. Eventually the president's office came up with a denial which did not address the core issues, but was carried faithfully by the mainstream media. Meanwhile, out there in Pune, the truth is out there to be seen. Can anybody stop the truth from coming out in this day and age of internet? With this report we have pictures of the president’s bungalow under construction.
It doesn’t get higher than the president, in India, and in what appears to be an unwritten law with the mainstream media in Delhi, you don't persist in saying or writing anything about the office and the persons therein which can even remotely be considered to be demoralising or dishonouring. This could be in exchange for the typical quid-pro-quo arrangements that exist in Delhi with such things or born out of traditions going back to a day when feudal and colonial practices were justified. But times have changed.
And nobody brought this out better than Vinita Deshmukh of Pune, a regular columnist for Moneylife, winner of the Chameli Devi Award for journalism and fearless to her own truths to a point where the typical pressures that emanate in and from Delhi, didn’t really impact what is rapidly becoming a report with no previous parallel.
In a situation where corruption in high places is becoming the major issue in India, it is expected that the president and her office take extra special care to stay clear of even the least taint or suspicion. On that count there is still no cogent explanation or response.
Based on more inputs, it remains to be seen whether these questions will be answered or not, either through the RTI route or directly, and much of how the people of this country hold the high office of the president will be decided by that. That is the point that Ms Deshmukh’s report brings out in a straightforward article based on facts which only Moneylife had the guts to carry.
These hearings cannot be realistic without even the draft DPR and the preliminary drawings made available for study to the public. Such hearings could be safely termed as a farce
On 5 April 2012, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) announced holding of a public hearing of the Mumbai Metro Master Plan’s (MMMP) Line III alignment on 11 April 2012. The line travels through Colaba-Churchgate-Flora Fountain-VT-Girgaum-Grant Road-Mumbai Central-Mahalaxmi-Worli-Prabhadevi-Dadar-Sitla Devi-Dharavi-BKC-Airport-MIDC-SEEPZ. MMRDA’s R Ramana, additional chief engineer, transportation planning co-ordinated the hearing arrangements and proceedings. Under the chairmanship of SRV Srinivas, additional metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA, the proceedings commenced 40 minutes late and progressed there on. PRK Murthy, chief engineer, transportation & communications division of MMRDA, GR Madan, director mass rapid transit systems, T&C Division, MMRDA, VK Phatak, former chief town & country planning, MMRDA, Dr Vikas Tondwalkar, director environment, MMRDA, and Vishram Patil, chief of rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R), MMRDA were on the dais. At the end, Metropolitan Commissioner Rahul Asthana joined the panel.
MMRDA distributed an information sheet which stated that the fully underground Metro III will be 33.5 km and have 27 conveniently located stations. It would be having interconnectivity with Central Railway at VT (CSTM), with Western Railway at Churchgate, Grant Road and Mumbai Central stations, with Metro I at Marol Naka and Metro II at BKC and with the Monorail at Jacob Circle (Sant Gadge Maharaj Chowk).
The construction would be by Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), NATM or cut & cover. It did not mention which all stretches would be by TBM and C&C methods but they mentioned during the proceedings that each station of C&C would take about a year and a half to construct.
A typical underground station would be fully air-conditioned, will have a concourse level and the platform level. Entry and exit, the information sheet said, will be by escalators and lifts, but MMRDA did not mention anything about a staircase. It will be designed for eight-coach trains. Station fire and emergency systems will be designed as per international standards (NFPA-130).
The information sheet tries to compare benefits of the Metro Line III with a motorcar trip and suburban rail travel. The comparison is faulty as it mentions a trip from Colaba, Cuffe Parade to Mumbai Airport; the directly connected alignment of the Metro with suburban rail for which there will be two road components of travel. It also mentions the time taken by a motorcar during peak period. Off-peak period travel time by a motorcar will actually take merely 40 minutes while it mentions it as 100 minutes, obviously for peak period travel. Metro travel is mentioned as 50 minutes, which, considering the 1.24 km average spacing of stations, limited permissible acceleration and deceleration, will give an average speed of not more than 30 kmph. This would mean, including dwell time, the airport trip will take not less than 70 minutes. Of course they have not tried to compare travel time with a BRTS, which can have an average speed of 25 to 30 kmph.
While the information sheet envisages the project completion by 2019, it says that ridership will be 13.87 lakh per day by 2025 and 16.99 lakh by 2031. It is silent on ridership in 2019. It does not give the peak period capacity in terms of pphpd (passengers per hour per direction) for the given frequency of an eight-coach train.
MMRDA stated that the Detail Project Report is ready. The advertisement of 5 April 2012 had mentioned that Mr Ramana could be contacted for any additional information. This sounds quite proper but when one sees the short time of six days between 5th and 10th had within that, four days of holidays—Mahavir Jayanti, Good Friday, Saturday and Sunday, leaving only Monday and Tuesday to even approach Mr Ramana, the whole hearing could be termed as farce. Despite this, the number who attended the hearing was reasonably good; the small Hall of the College of Insurance was full.
Issues raised by citizens varied from alignment and wanting the Charkop-Bandra made underground to issues of rehabilitation and Airport stations ‘gifted’ to GVK, the “owners/managers” of Chhattrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) to the issue concerned with Sustainable Urban Mobility.
Nitin Killawalla, Architect from Juhu Vile Parle area spearheading the campaign for having underground Metro Line II instead of planned elevated, suggested that Line II and Line III be merged and made underground right from Cuffe Parade, Colaba to Bandra and bifurcate one line continuing to Charkop and the other to Airport and SEEPZ. The Bandra-Mankhurd route could continue as planned. He cited hourly figures of boardings or alightings in the sections Charkop to Bandra to be 1,25,000 and Bandra to Cuffe Parade to be 1,89,000 in 2031. By doing this, he stated that the entire stabling yard or car shed planned in the Aarey “green” zone could be averted, using the Charkop area as planned for Line II.
Isn’t the site of Charkop car shed planned at Lalji Pada having an R&R issue?
The alignment going to SEEPZ via domestic and international airports passes through slums of Chimatpada and Sahar village. Representatives from these areas articulated their apprehensions of R&R. Former corporator from the area, Mr Almeida brought out the fact that GVK was given the land at a very insignificant price and was given development rights for three stations passing through the Airport touching domestic and international terminals and Sahar Road where the cargo section is located. To this, someone from Girgaum said that they too could be allowed to develop their ‘stations’ and commercially exploit them! Apparently the lands taken by MIDC from “bhoomiputras” were not compensated for in terms of R&R. They too wanted to come into the fold of R&R of the project.
Looking into the location of the Airport Stations, it gives the impression that the distance an air passenger will have to traverse will be so high that they may continue with their current mode of cars and taxis. In Delhi, the Airport metro train carries barely a score of people although the frequency is as high as 12 minutes. The reason is that the distance to be traversed to the metro station is long and takes 30 minutes to walk to after deplaning.
He said “As far as Mumbai is concerned, there seems to be little attention given to Sustainable Urban Mobility. All projects taken up seem to be of high cost, of long delivery duration and serving minuscule population of the city, while the majority of population suffers due to relief giving projects not being considered at all. Annual fatality figure of nearly 4,000 on overcrowded suburban rail system seems to be an irrelevant issue as much as the density of these commuters.
In a city where 44% walk to work, 3.1% use bicycles and most, including many using personal motor vehicles (only 2.8% use motorcars) use public transport or walk, focus seems to be on this small percent of population using personal motorized transport. Even the Mumbai Metro Master Plan and Mumbai Monorail Master Plan and the grand Garland Road Plan will not address the transportation and quality of life issues adequately or early.”
He recounted the twelve points from his letter to MoUD:
1. Line 3 has 27 stations in 33.5 km length, giving an average station spacing of 1.24 km.
2. Six- coach train will require about 135m of station length
3. It is presumed that access to station platform will be through staircases, escalators and elevators. Their location on the roads would curtail the road pedestrian movements significantly unless the DPR has shown how it will not.
4. DPR is not available for comments.
5. At what depth would stations be and if they are at higher levels, then what is the method of construction envisaged?
6. It is assumed that Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) will be used to bore the tunnel. Where would the TBM inserted into ground to commence boring and how would the excavated material removed and disposed off?
7. How would the rakes be stabled? Where would the cars shed be located?
8. What are the methods of providing ventilation and air-conditioning? Power requirement, how will this be met?
9. What are the disaster mitigation plans and disaster management plans?
10. There is a seismic faultline passing through the geological structure of Mumbai. How have they addressed this issue?
11. Unlike the earlier Line 3 alignment which was going through the erstwhile mill areas of the island city that did not have railway line, the new alignment avoids that completely and runs almost parallel to the Western Railway line till Mumbai Central and Mahalaxmi stations. Intention may have been to bring it closer to Malabar Hill and Cumballa Hill where personal motorcar usage is very high. However, it is highly unlikely that personal motorcar users will use the Metro if the stations are not passing very close to their dwellings. The route needs to be reviewed from an overall perspective of reducing personal motorcar usage.
12. There is no mention of how stations will be fed with commuters or how they will be dispersed. Whether they propose to provide for parking cars and if so, the very purpose of providing public transport through Metro gets defeated if one provides these car parks. Firstly these will be totally inadequate, forcing people to either park on road sides or use cars for full distances.
Of all these points, SRV Srinivas responded to the point on Disaster Management aspects in very general terms but did not mention what mitigation measures were being adopted. Mr Madan mentioned that they were going to adopt designs for eight-coach train as against six-coach they had been mentioning earlier. This would mean that the station length will be 180 m.
The positive part was that they all acknowledged the fact that the Metro Rail will take enormous time and nodded to the comment that Sustainable Urban Mobility must get priority in the form of making infrastructure for walking, cycling and the BRTS. How far the affirmative nod will take matters to reality is anybody’s guess.
(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). 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 on email at [email protected])
Without popularising any easy-to-use and failure-safe alternative, the Railways are phasing out coupon booklets that can be purchased from ticket windows and validated by punching at starting station across the Mumbai suburban rail network
To avoid the long rush at the railway ticket counters, Mumbaikars have an easy option of using coupon vending machines (CVMs). Unfortunately, this would now be a thing of past. From March 2013, these coupons will not be available as the Railway board has decided to phase out them from circulation. This move is aimed to popularise the Railways’ own automatic ticket vending machines (ATVM) where a smart card (issued by the Railways) is used for buying tickets and season passes. However, passengers association are disappointed with the announcement. Just recently, the Railways also stopped selling coupons directly and instead asked commuters to buy it by standing in the queue, similar to other ticket buyers.
Vidyadhar Malegaokar, chief public relation officer, Central Railway, told Moneylife that, “It was an old notification from the railway ministry. We had requested them for an extension. Accordingly, the CVMs will be phased out by March 2013. Already ATVMs are been installed across stations. Once we have alternative, CVMs will be removed. At present, around 15% of ticket sales, on average, are coming through ATVMs.”
At present, across railway stations of Mumbai, there are 350 CVMs and 250 ATVMs on the Central Railway and 230 CVMs and 175 ATVMs on the Western Railway stations. On the Central Railway network, there are about 428 ticket booking windows that sell around 10 lakh tickets every day.
However, passenger associations have criticized the move calling it a deliberate attempt to kill the popular CVM scheme. “CVMs are easy to operate and popular among commuters. Earlier the railways allowed passengers to buy coupons without standing in the queue. But according to a circular, from 1st April, people have to stand in queue to buy coupons. Obviously, there is no rationale here. Commuters will migrate to ATVMs, which in reality is complicated to use. ATVMs just mean the railways will get full payment in advance,” said Madhu Kotian, president, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh.
Mr Kotian adds that, “Unlike CVMs where only the coupon had to be punched, while using an ATVM a passenger has to give five commands. People who cannot read the instructions would not be able to use this; unlike the CVMs. Plus many of these expensive machines are non-functional. Instead they should have increased the number of CVMs. At the end only passenger will have to suffer.”
For using the ATVMs, the commuter needs to buy a smart card and then top it up or refill (similar to adding talk time in mobile) in multiples of Rs50. The smart card carries a deposit of Rs50, which means this money would be locked and remain with the Railways and you cannot use it for buying tickets. For buying tickets through the ATVMs, you need to refill it with minimum Rs50. The Railways offer a 5% discount on every refill, which means if you loaded the card with Rs100, then the refilled amount would be Rs105.
For using ATVMs, the commuter has to place his smart card on the sensor screen, select language (Marathi, Hindi or English), select appropriate zone, starting and destination stations, add number of adults and children and then give the print command.
Subhash Gupta, president, Yatri Sangh Mumbai, seconds the view. “There is a huge popularity of CVMs among the passengers. The reason behind long queues is the less number of ticket counters. Phasing out coupons will add to the problem. The Mumbai Division (railway) is already short of staff. So there is no hope for any additional ticket counter or window at any station. CVMs are easier to use as compared ATVMs, which can be used by people who can read or do any ATM transaction. We will demand with the railway board to not put an end to CVMs.”
He adds that, “Unless there is dedicated staff to resolve the technical problems, as often these machine breakdown, passengers won’t have any relief. These factors have to be considered by the Railways.”
At present, there are some facilitators (mostly Railway employees) at a few ATVMs who sell tickets to commuters by using their smart card. They also help commuters in buying tickets through these machines. However, their number is limited and they are not available at every station or ATVM.