When people hear the collective term “Public Infrastructure” thrown around during a discussion (typically dealing with pressing issues of civic governance, or in some cases, an intense tirade on how traffic is slowly killing our durable dispositions), they immediately draw a connection to something overarching and vague, like direct tax codes or how Bitcoin really works.
They just don’t get it.
Sure, we know what it is.
But beyond the hackneyed term being used to describe our municipal woes and state-of-the-art cable bridges that make us feel invincible for seven minutes, we interpret the term within its macro-fulfilling purpose: it deals with infrastructure owned by the public.
Now the great thing about the essence of that sentence is the owned by the public part. Inherently and immediately, it has value. We own the roads and tunnels! [“Own”(strictly limited to)= “use as a public commodity”]
But when it comes to analytically locating what’s going wrong and how to fix it, we seem to get intimidated by the sweeping scale of what the world of public infrastructure encompasses, and if making certified changes is a even a feasible concept.
The metropolis of Mumbai boasts of a teeming population of over 12 million people, which inadvertently makes “planning the city”, a focal priority of the state authorities. In fact, a multitude of benefits depend on it.
In the recent years, a variety of ambitious projects have been pitched to “reform” the city’s infrastructure- like create safer roads, make transport accessible, strengthen East-West connectivity, facilitate safe and convenient walking for pedestrians, and so on.
The stark reality however, in analogous terms, is as dismal as being rejected by a hundred rickshaw drivers on a rainy day. It’s gruesome. Even though the city now has a Metro line, a monorail, a freeway and a double-decker connecting the eastern and western suburbs, it cracks under the strain of disordered execution and unregulated systems.
The problem though, extends itself as a much larger issue than being solely limited to the flaws in this system; it’s a problem that concerns you and me. We are the public in public infrastructure, and to really mend the snags we have to start being accountable too.
We at Homegrown, decided to get to the root of this overwhelming predicament and initiate a few realistic solutions to alleviate the issues that need urgent attention, as part of our Youth Manifesto. It’s very easy to get daunted by the comprehensive core of the topic, but if you decentralize the browbeating subject and introduce small-step resolutions, the result is a domino effect of change.
I. IT’S A CRAMMY CRAMMED WORLD
“Travelling has become such a nuisance. Sometimes, you just don’t feel like getting out of the house because driving is such a stressful experience.”
If you’ve ever experienced driving through a muddle of trapped cars, its very likely that you are in this city. There is a general level of disarray while commuting, be it because of the small roads, overflowing number of cars, or disorganized traffic management.
To really improve the situation on the roads, it’s fundamental to begin with asking the question: why are there so many cars in the first place?
If we had a well-planned system of public transport that was carefully articulated for people to fully be aware of the bus routes, numbers, the arrival frequency and stops- people would use them more.
“I’ve never used a bus because I still don’t understand how many stops there are before I reach my destination. It seems to be a system of transport only for those that are conditioned to it’s functioning.”
If people began to get conditioned, it would only result in that many less cars on the road. With fewer cars on the road, we’re looking at lesser accidents and better traffic management.With better traffic management, there is more space for you to drive and walk, making commuting a (more) relaxing activity for one and all.
II. WHERE ARE THESE PARKS YOU SPEAK OF?
As Mumbai transforms more and more into an urban jungle, spots like parks have become a sporadic and rare commodity.
Fun fact: There is one park for every five schools in the city.
Fact: Not a lot of people know where these parks are.
“Parks aren’t just for joggers and children. It’s a great place to just sit and unwind, something we need in this city- beyond the malls and café’s.”
Interestingly, the basic infrastructure really does exist. There’s supposed to be a ‘public space’ or ‘park’ for every pin code and whether you’re aware of yours or not, whatever condition it might be in, they do exist already. It’s the management of these spaces that’s in complete shambles. To really make people aware and integrated in park sustenance, the parks should be used to organize different events and activities that involve communities in fun experiences as well as make them more invested in managing the park.
Schools of the area should also share the responsibility to maintain the park together with park management, as its their children that stand to benefit the most too.
Just FYI, here is a list of major parks around the city:
Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali
Victoria Gardens, Byculla
Kamla Nehru Park, Malabar Hill
Hornimal Circle garden, Fort
Priyadarshini Park, Napean Sea road
Five Gardens, Matunga
Chota Kashmir, Aarey Colony
Jogger’s Park, Bandra
Nirvana Park, Powai
Maharashtra nature park, Sion
Shivaji Park, Dadar
And these are just the bigger, better maintained ones.
III. BRING BACK THEM RICKSHAW STANDS
We’ve all been unabashedly rejected by a rickshaw wala in our lifetime.
After being shut down with phrases like “nahi jayega” or snubbed with no real response but sheer apathy, we’re accustomed to this behavior by now. But the rules strictly condone it, prohibiting rickshaw walas from saying no to customers. So how do we get them to follow the rules?
Technically, a rickshaw is supposed to stand at a stall. And we propose to bring back this idea and execute it, to end all games of power-control and chaos.
“I would rather have a system where there were rickshaw pit stops or stands across the city where we could go and find a rickshaw instead of waiting in the middle of the road and trying your luck for twenty minutes.”
With designated rickshaws stands in all the major landmarks/destinations in the city, there is an assured likelihood that you will find one, and that they won’t say no- mostly because you can regulate this with strict supervision by police officers who could be assigned to such areas at all times.
Now, one might say there is insufficient space to organize these stalls, but if we manage lanes effectively and establish local-area wise management, this isn’t a wasted idea.
IV. MANAGE YOUR JUNK
“Garbage management is just garbage that’s dumped and forgotten to be picked up in the middle of the road.”
We can easily blame the authorities for being lazy when it comes to managing “where the waste goes”, but waste management begins in our homes.
Begin by segregating your waste into dry and wet. By doing this you ensure there is more organization when it comes to dumping the waste, making it more economical and eco-friendly. We must also engage a public relations firm to educate citizens on effective waste management.
A senior civic official said, “By the end of 2014, we have to ensure that all housing societies adopt this practice. We have issued notices time and again to residents, but the response has not been good. There are provisions to fine residents for failing to segregate garbage under the Municipal Solid Waste rules.”
In Germany, regulations exist that provide mandatory quotas for the waste sorting of packaging waste and recyclable materials such as glass bottles.
Another novel concept that can be applied to collecting waste is by using reverse vending machines. These are devices that accept used (empty) beverage containers and returns money to the user. People could probably get to choose a reward for their recycling efforts. They can collect and redeem points as part of a reward system for their effort. The machine will produce token receipts for each item recycled, allowing the user to benefit financially. Each time a person uses the machine, they will earn points, which they can redeem at different hangout spots in the city.
V. ENABLING THE DISABLED
“I take the train to work. There are no attendants to help the disabled. People with absolutely no disabilities travel in the Disabled people compartment and it creates a problem for us. If we try to stop them from doing so, they don’t really listen to us. They know we are no authority that they should listen to us. Informing the cops about it also doesn’t really help. They should really keep attendants and helpers to ensure that this doesn’t happen.” - Neetu Naik, 40, Chartered Accountant
The handicapped compartments in both trains and other public areas must be well-equipped with the infrastructure as well as relevant personnel that attend to the needs of the disabled at all times.
There should also be a strict policy of fines and corrective regulation with regard to who enters these compartments unauthorized and makes use of it unfairly.
VI. LOO AND BEHOLD
If you ever wanted a breakdown on public restrooms (or not), this is a great statistical study to put things into perspective:
There are only 1,300 pay-and-use toilets for 14 million people: one public toilet for 10,769 desperate users. Compare this with Singapore’s 60,000 public toilets for its 4.5 million people: one for 75 people. Shanghai has a public toilet every 1,000 feet.
”I am not comfortable accessing the BKC office toilets neither can I walk up to Bandra station with a full bladder. It’s not like I love using the corners, but there is no toilet to go to.” Kapish Raichur, courier runner at Bandra.
The glaring statistics suggest that only one public toilet exists for 10,769 desperate users. Compare this with Singapore’s 60,000 public toilets for its 4.5 million people: they have one for 75 people. Shanghai has a public toilet every 1,000 feet.
Looking at these statistics alone, the first and most important solution is: build more restrooms.
“We get a lot of applications for toilet construction. We are considering 60 proposals. But permission depends on movement of traffic and people in an area,” said P.S. Joshi, executive engineer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
However, if the above solutions for traffic control and better management are considered, things can be different.
I mean, we’re looking at a future where people have the option to go use a restroom over a tarnished wall! We think that’s worth fighting for.
If we had to really look at these solutions in a cohesive manner, you will realize that they’re all linked magically to serve a cumulative purpose. And that is the only way big results are achievable, through small steps.
This is not the sound of self-satisfied teenagers living large without consequence. This is the sound of democratic participation, in the midst of a new awakening. We hope you feel inspired to join in the conversation too. Drop us a line with your thoughts in the comment section below or email us at email@example.com. If your suggestion is valid, we’ll be sure to include it in the final version of the manifesto too, and credit you for the same.
Stay tuned for our Homegrown X Operation Black Dot series of articles, which will be shedding light on Public Infrastructure tomorrow, as we move forth towards the upcoming State Elections this October the 15th.
Words: Shreya Vaidya