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Monday, 11 June 2012

Urban Woes

Each week a TV program called ‘SatyaMevJaitey’ churns out juicy stories for people to mull about, to remind them about the issues affecting a common man, to make them aware of the problems that everybody knows it exists but can do nothing about it. Each week, after 90 minutes of these emotional programs where people are believed to have shed a tear or two, and those  who are moved by this program donate Re1 SMS to a NGO, hoping it will bring change which is actually a Government’s job.
Different issues have been discussed so far regarding child abuse, dowry, female foeticide, doctors and their mal-practices and yesterday it was the bad infrastructure for handicaps.
So, the people who are differently able were discussed.

They spoke about equal opportunities for all, about integrating them into main stream, about their mobility in public places, about building ramp in the public places, about Job placements, and about many more issues affecting handicapped people.
But ask a common man how much he suffers even when he is able and completely normal.
Mumbai is safe city to live in, that is what most people believe. But walk down the street in broad day light and see how dangerous it is. The roads are broken, the inter-locking tiles are stolen from the street by hawkers to create make-shift tables, all the roads are dug up and they take months to repair. Foot paths are built one foot above the road level, how do they expect the handicap and senior citizens to walk on footpath? There is no co-ordination between different utilities, everybody had their own timing for carrying out their work and digging the roads.  
The other day I was waiting at the bus-stop and saw a woman in sari struggling to climb the first step of the BEST bus. She had to lift her sari up to her knee to climb up the first step, two and half feet above the ground, some street urchins had a good laugh watching her struggle. Only the fisher-women, sports women or women in jeans are able to travel with ease. 

Same story is at the Mumbai Locals. The new trains are two feet above the platform. The tiles have come off the edges of the platform, there is danger of slipping while alighting a train.
Nobody thought about senior people while designing new local trains?
Mumbai has sky walk in many areas, but who is using these sky walks? They are three floors up with no lift or escalators. If you walk through these sky walks at night, you are likely to see hundreds of street-people sleeping up there, it’s a safe place to sleep with no fear of speeding traffic to run over them, but during day time, it is used by very few people, senior people or handicap can never use these safe walks.
How can you make the life of handicap and the senior citizen easy when the infrastructure of Mumbai is handicapped?
Friend says to be the change you want instead of complaining.
I would love to bring change if it wasn't so difficult to get required papers/forms to be passed through offices with ease....for every work that we want done, there are long queues, repeated trips to the same office which reduces with the amount of tips you give. There is too much frustrations. Nothing happens without takes so long to get any work done that all the peons and watchmen start calling you by your first name.
Last year I went to visit city of Lavasa, on the outskirts of Pune. This is the new city that is being built presumptuously with better infrastructure. But here too, I found they had not paid attention to the needs of handicap and senior citizens. True, there were ramps and slopes at certain places but there were no railings at stair case. One had to do balancing act while climbing up/down the steps without support.
No change is possible till the mentality of people change, till the Government realizes that it is its’ duty to make the life easy for its citizens. 

On my recent visit to Dubai I was impressed with the metro stations. Every station had escalators and lifts, everything was computerized and the most impressive thing was that people who have constructed these stations are all Indians.
Friend says that changes can be brought about with the right attitude.
Awareness is the first step towards change. Positive mentality is another factor, then there are also different organizations such as ‘San-Kranti: transform Urban India’ and ‘Indian Institute for HumanSettlement’ who can take up these projects and bring some change,
But I still feel
Life of a common man can be a comfortable only if the state cares…….

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