Is Traffic Killing the Freedom of Mumbaikars……!!

I have been with this thought for quite some time as I take stock of the hours I spend every day of my life in Mumbai traffic. Mumbai has arguably the best social infrastructure in India with vibrant theatre scene, multitude of restaurants and cafes, several shopping spots, happening night life, several music and art festivals, famous colleges and schools, the world’s largest film industry as well as scenic historic sites all calling the city their home. But when one looks at it holistically, do all Mumbaikars or those who live in the surrounding satellite towns and cities get to enjoy them? The answer unfortunately is a resounding NO.

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As all the places noted above are spread across Mumbai, the fact is that almost all that is enjoyable in the megapolis are located at insurmountable distances from the suburbs. Even if you live at a distance of 5 km from your favorite restaurant you have to think 10 times before setting out for dinner. You may take anywhere from half an hour to over two hours to reach your destination, whether you drive or take a rick or a cab. One need to think whether this is what tax-paying hardworking citizens deserve? There is no time to catch up with friends and family in various parts of the city and relationships whittle and fade away.

The same goes for your daily commute to work. This article in TOI reflects the life of an average Thaneite where almost 5 hours is spent in traveling if you work in town side. This adds up to almost a full day on the road in a 5-day week. Experiences are similar for Mumbaikars who commute from Borivali to Central or South Mumbai as well. If one thinks of exit from Mumbai to one of our favorite hill stations (Khandala/Lonavala) or beaches (Alibaug) firstly we need to exit through Vashi /  Kopri bridges which tests our patience ; not to mention the pitiable condition of the roads resulting in wastage of our precious time. For people commuting for work through trains, they need to first fight their own battles in almost all key stations of Mumbai which are overcrowded and are impossible to access on busy mornings. For those going by road, the badly managed signals, the pothole-riddled roads, new unplanned infrastructure projects and tolls at several entry / exit spots to the city makes things worse. Office-goers have to pass through the toll plazas every day which makes traffic worse. And also, the promise of toll-mukth roads to suburbs outside Mumbai goes unfulfilled / unanswered.

So all this makes you wonder what’s the benefit of living in Mumbai or Thane or Navi Mumbai? Compare this with cities like Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai or even Bangalore, and you realize that the quality of life in these cities is far better. Good roads, well-planned transport facilities and a population with good awareness level have ensured that a regular person or family has more to enjoy in these cities. The happening areas are no longer off-limits and inaccessible. If you have the spirit and energy, you can have a good work-life-fun balance and gather new experiences here. So is there anything to hold us back in Mumbai other than the perpetual hope that things will improve and Mumbai will become the proverbial Shanghai?  We still continue to live in this hope and resonate the unsaid call of resilience setting in Mumbaikars!!

I end my thoughts here.

Article by: Shamjith Das / Aparna Shamjith

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