Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nothing less will do...

The traffic problem in Mumbai is getting more and more alarming each day . A suburb which was formerly 20 mins away is now 45 (unless the commute is done late night or early morning ). Time is becoming an increasingly precious resource or rather a precious resource that is wasted due to the inept /non-existent planning of successive governments + poor quality of roads + poor quality of traffic management + inadequate quantity and quality of public transport. This affects every single aspect of one's life :

- health 
- duration of commute to workplace / college , school 
- quality of that commute
- social life
- access to medical aid in case of emergency
- productivity of individuals , businesses
- cost of living ( in financial and non-financial terms)

If these are problems faced by citizens in the upper middle class and middle class category one can only imagine how much more compounded it gets in the economically weaker sections of society. The unrest brewing beneath the surface of everyday life is of volcanic proportions.

Businesses especially retail business feels the direct impact of the current condition of Mumbai city e.g road near the store is dug up , its not possible to park the vehicle or it's inconvenient to walk - consumers forgo the store and try to make the purchase elsewhere. The challenge for retail businesses gets compounded if you are retailing products which are discretionary purchases . Unless you have determined evangelists as customers - in the current economic environment the current state of the roads and the traffic tilts the scales in favor of the consumer forgoing the purchase. Yet one does not see any evidence of collective efforts by retailers in shopping streets to improve the infrastructure of the street. Everyone laments the problem and feels it's consequence . But surprisingly that does not translate into any constructive, collective action.

Successive governments , municipal corporations have failed miserably in providing basic infrastructure to the citizens of this country . They lack the intention , capability and leadership. There are well intentioned , capable folks in the government bodies . But they are outnumbered by the corrupt and passive majority within the institution.

Collaborating or coming together as a community + constructive activism is not something that comes easily to Indians. It's however a skill we'll need to learn quickly as individuals and businesses if we hope to reclaim quality of life in any measure.

To begin with we need to lose the 'what can one person do' line of thought and the apathy. 

There's a lot of activism and efforts by groups to ensure that people vote . This is great . But it's not sufficient . Why ? Because what are the options for the voter ? Is there a single political party in this country one can look up to and associate it with competent governance , proven performance , integrity ? At the ballot the choice for the voter is between the devil and the deep sea (in terms of the political parties ).

To change our everyday reality we need activism and collaboration at the community level - as individuals and businesses .

For starters...

- Get together to ensure cleaner , safer streets
- Push for better quality of public transport
- Actively interface with elected representatives, municipal corporations to ask them to ensure improvements in the area / infrastructure 
- Enlist media support where needed 
- Provide opportunities to the less privileged 
- Save electricity , fuel 
- Car pool 
- Reduce unnecessary commuting
- Reduce usage of plastic 
- Plant , nurture trees

This is nothing less than a cultural change - at an individual and collective level. Nothing less will do.


kitchu said...

The firsthalf of your BLOG is a repeat of your earlier blog of 13th Jan -2008 on the same subject.The Traffic problems has only become worst espically in mumbai.Very POOR thiking and Planning is the root cause of the present chaos.Being an Island -Mumbai has its limittion to accomdate the Influx of People wanting to reside.Atkeast now the highways are getting better for commuting with in places,We need good PUBLIC trasportslike Underg round TUBES similar to Singapore and also a good polictal goverence like singapore inspit of huge asian community living there - the disipline is too good.

your 10 points mentioned atthe bottom -we would have become to OLD by the time every indian implements it

Savitha Rao said...

Appreciate that you read the blog regularly :)

Your cynicism is not unfounded . We will however have to understand that each person can make a positive difference. We have do what we can as individuals . In this country waiting for government action alone to bring about positive change is a pipe dream.