Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Mess called Metro!

Games are won not on wish to win but on determination to win… Sunil Gavaskar.

The little master might have referred above quote to the test series which we lost poorly in England but when I read the news papers & especially the famous or infamous Metro of our city, then I feel how prefect this quote fits here! So much has been written about Metro that I feel by now people must have thought that Metro seems to be only solution for every problem of our Pune city! As, right from Hon CM to every politician from even the smallest karyakarta of the party, NGO’s, Social personality too Media all seems to have this single agenda i.e. Metro on their mind! We are famous for controversies & but no topic related to this city is as fortunate or say celebrity like the Metro, getting so much publicity!

We have been reading about the Metro since more than five years & let me clear in the first clear, I am no authority on Metro or traffic planning, all I am interested is analyzing the scene on the basis of what I have been reading in media like every common citizen of this city! We have read that Metro is the next in thing & which will change the future of this city & this too from nearly now over six years back. Before this analysis lets understand what is the Metro, as many even may not be knowing what is Metro in actual! Well, for those lucky souls, Metro is nothing as interesting as some new age supersonic jet airplane but it’s a form of railway which has a dedicated route within the city or call it track & unlike our regular railway or local in Mumbai, Metro can travel right within the city either on over head tracks or underground, without disturbing the city life around, at least that’s what is expected. Then the coaches or bogies are not open like the regular railway, that’s one more difference & it’s mainly to carry the city traffic & not connecting two cities. Obviously the cost per kilometer length is much higher than the normal railway line & so is the operating cost too.

Now you have got the concept of Metro then let’s see what’s scene in our city. As I mentioned some six years back the dream named Metro has been introduced to us, after that lot of water has passed under the bridge named Govt on this front. But still no one, even the Hon Cm can’t guaranty when actually Metro will start as right from the routes to form of the Metro i.e. whether it will be overhead or underground every aspect which should be freeze, has gone in to just discussion & like the famous Sunny Deol’s “Damini”  movie dialogue , its just “Tarikh pe tarikh”, we have just been reading about new assurances & announcements about the Metro. First of all lets know  as its being projected that Metro will solve all the traffic issues of the city, it’s not so. The routes in combining both i.e. Pimpri Chinchwad to Swargate & Vanaj to Ramwadi, its hardly 31 kms in total. The city after merging new villages & in combination with PCMC has spread on nearly over 650 sq kms & that’s large area. Also the growth isn’t planned, people travel crisscrossing the city; for many travelling isn’t more than 7-8 kms & that too not in straight line, so question is why they are not taking present available public transport? Answer is simple as there isn’t any such! The PMPML or more popularly known as Pune Municipal Transport has failed miserably on providing a sustainable option for public transport & nothing has been done to strengthen the same is also a fact.

So a question for common man like me is till Metro don’t come in existence why the available means of public transport is not being improved; as we have witness the fiasco of BRT i.e. Bus route transport & on this background when even to start the Metro its being taken more than six years what warranty our rulers are going to give about successful implementation of Metro?

After confirming the routes & nature of Metro, which by my knowledge is now will be above the ground then comes the rest of formalities which has been laid by Central Govt, like formation of a separate company to monitor the Metro but what we read in media confuses us more as there is no such company formed yet & on the top of it State Govt & Central Govt including every person related to Metro is making statements so much contradictory to each other that even a sane person will go mad reading them! State Govt & ruling parties in state says they have compiled everything asked by Central Govt & its new Govt which is of opposite party, is biasly behaving & holding up the Metro of the city. Central Govt & the people of opposition in State says it’s the negligence of State Govt which hasn’t fulfilled any norms laid by Central Govt & that has caused delay to the Metro. And in this fight there isn’t approval by Central Govt till date to the Metro, so no question arises about budget provision for the same!

In the mean time, has even Hon CM even went ahead & declared the date of Metro bhoomipuja, whereas there even is no appointment of some post as Special Operating Officer for the Metro; which is again a mandatory condition! And joke is the person who has been appointed at this post has been sacked & new biodata's have been called & there is no response to the call is the latest news! Obviously no wise person will like to become scapegoat of our rulers, is what I guess! My my! So much of fuss over a route of just 31 km!
What all this shows? Are we incapable of even finalizing one railway track in city which is supposed to be Oxford of the East! Is there no one in entire Central Govt or in State Govt or in city civic body, who will come forward & take the responsibility of making the Metro a reality? I think all concerned don’t want to take any risk of losing this battle which has been already lost; as it’s said that the battles are win or lost in planning & on paper & what happens on field is just execution of what has been planned!

Following the track of paper work if we go by what media says then the delay itself has caused nearly five thousand crores rupees of increase in costing of Metro i.e. today it will cost over some eleven thousand crores & each year’s delay will add on some seven hundred crores of rupees in the costing. Looking at figures again a poor common citizen like me will think that on one side we are not making provisions of merely some hundred crores of rupees for the PMT, then again what’s guaranty that this kind of money will be generated in time & will be made available to the Metro? As some ten percent of amount has to be shelled out by the lock civic body i.e. PMC, means with today’s figures one thousand crores of rupees PMC will have to provide, & from where this money will be generated? One answer is by giving addition FSI to the properties along the Metro track. Well, what if these properties won’t come in time for the development? And also what about the infrastructural requirements of the city which will increase by four times due to this? Even today we don’t have enough funds to buy the reservation lands & the classic example is land under BDP i.e. bio diversity park on the hills. It’s said some one thousand crore rupees will require to acquire these lands & we haven’t yet taken the policy decision for the same & each passing day these lands are falling victim to illegal development & slums! So with such poor track record what’s fate of Metro this even a small kid can tell!

Instead of making individual statements in news papers, why not a single concerned department has published a white paper is a report about the facts of Metro & its viability giving clear idea about the responsibility of individual organization regarding Metro?
And today only I came across a write-up by Mr. Shashikant Limaye, former Special Officer for Metro, he said this is just first phase as so short route can’t solve any problem of traffic but there has to be network of Metro all around the city. Like Delhi Metro started with 60km length & now it’s going towards 300km mark; same is happening with Bangalore. And this is what even I have seen in cities like Paris or Singapore where the Metro tracks covers entire city & then people use it at fullest. At the same time the Metro has to have back up by equally efficient network of road transport; so we will be needing PMT as filler & its importance don’t go down by entry of Metro. So what are the plans for these infrastructure activities is equally unclear.

One may as usual ask what this all has to do with real estate? Well real estate survives on infrastructure & good transportation is very basic need of any city. People can’t live just within four wall but they need to go out of them & earn their bread & so as their kids needs to go to school & so on. Take example of any good city in urban history, it does have traffic problems & only those cities have survived which has found solutions to the traffic problems. Take example of Bangalore, many people have migrated out of the city just because the city failed to solve two basic problems, water & traffic. People get frustrated in every day struggle of travelling to work place & reach back home! Mumbai’s local’s success we all know & properties near to local stations have always been in demand. As already in today’s carrier oriented life every minute of the day counts & if we are wasting it in travelling then its unproductive time & each such minute spent in travel generates more stress in the common citizen of the city. Here is where importance of fronts like Metro or entire traffic solutions comes in picture!

Unfortunate that there is no pressure group formed by the real estate segment of the city or the residents in the millions of units they have build, which will urge the rulers to stop making false or confusing announcement & instead show some action on the front of Metro as well entire traffic scene. Media is also busy in giving publicity to such statement of the leaders which carry no value in actual for the common citizen. Instead they should be asking these concerned personnel’s to bring the truth about the Metro in light so the common man can focus his power towards the right person who can deliver the solution to the problem. After all no one is against Metro but the way we have made the mess of it, the common man is losing the faith in the system & once that happens not even Metro will be able to restore it!

What Metro needs is not budget provision or a special company but a determination to make it a reality & a person who can assure that determination to the common man of this city. And unfortunately in the city of over sixty millions, that one person is missing, making the Metro a Mess!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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