At least for a decade now we have been hearing of imminent-to-be constructed Pedder Raod Fly Over.
Those familiar with Mumbai know that it is the narrow, effectively a four lane road, connecting Western suburbs to the business district comprising Nariman Point, Fort, Colaba, and the diamond hub at Opera house.
It sees daily traffic snares during peak hours, and at noon when the school day gets over.
MCGM has had decades old plans for a Fly Over on this road, taking off from North of Haji Ali junction and landing at Marine Drive. Much like the JJ Fly Over few km east of it.
But plans have been plans only. Its construction has been effectively blocked by the residents who have properties abutting it. Most famous of these of course has been Lata Mangeshakr, who at one time had even threatened to leave Mumbai if the Fly Over construction was undertaken.
This Fly Over is the best example of what is wrong with the ruling elite of India.
See the ironies:
- Quite a few of the residents of the area are the folks who just send a letter to some collector in some rural district, who is then supposed to acquire land of the villagers, their only means of livelihood, so that they can set up some factory, some plant there, far away from the Pedder Road, which can not be pollutted, which needs to be preserved in its present Fly Over less pristine state. And he does, completely turning upside down the life of villagers whose land is so acquired.
- Rest all residents also happen to be there because of similar economic activites all over India. This is the costliest locality of India.
- They travel to airport, from where they take off in their private jets to their factories and plants, using at least half a dozen Fly Overs constructed on the roads passing through other people’s localities.
- Construction of a Fly Over is now an actvity that causes very little inconvenience to the residents on either side of the road, what with precast segments, very modern equipments for boring and excavation, etc.
- Weekly, if not daily, some Fly Over gets completed somewhere in similar locality in India. And of course huge lengths of elevated Metro Corridors are under construction in numerous cities all over India, on equally congested roads.
And yet, here we are, a whole State struggling against a group of very well endowed people using the cowardice of a corrupt ruling elite to block a very important infrastructure intervention in our prime city.
The tool that has come to be the most handy, is the same that is blocking so many arteries of economy: the so called Green Laws, enforced by the new licensing ministry, the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
- There is no forest on Pedder Road. At least I have not seen any during thousands of trips I have made over it.
- It is not an ecologically sensitive zone. It has concrete multistorey buildings on either side. No mangroves, no protected tree species.
- There is no wild life on Pedder Road. No endangered species lives there, unless you say that Crony Capitalists are an endangered species.
- So what is MoEF doing there? Why has it effectively blocked the Fly Over? Fly Overs are a very routine constrcution work now, we know what “environmental” impact a Fly Over has. It should not have even gone to this ministry for any clearances.
Exasperated, MCGM reduced the size of the Fly Over, thus taking it out of the jurisdiction of Central MoEF. Yes, monetary value of a project, and not its location in an ecologically sensitive zone, etc., decides who will get to lord over the case. The State authrorites have cleared it, and residents have promptly gone to the “State Green Tribunal.” A “Tribunal” created to “adjudicate” disputes between environment and the people, environment being duly represented by a whole army of “activists, NGOs, neutral-citizens, experts…….”
So we may finally have a truncated Fly Over on Pedder Road, if the State Green Tribunal lets it go ahead.
Almost similar is the case of a Fly Over at Modinagar, a town 40 km from Delhi, on the Delhi-Dehradun National Highway. NHAI planned to constrcut a JJ Fly Over type Fly Over, letting motorists travelling through Modinagar have a cross-traffic free travel via Modinagar. But the residents of Modinagar blocked the traffic for a couple of days, and lo, the administration caved in. Whole plan was changed and instead an Expressway between Delhi and Meerut was planned along a new route, involving acquistion of some of the most fertile agricultural land of India. Farmers had no roads to block. And even if they had, I am sure they would have been shot by police.
These two cases show why communists like Arundhati Roy become champions of the oppressed. They feed on the real mockery of equality before law so brazenly done by the high and connected. The high and connected who do not realize that such blatant mockery of law may someday give rise to such a tsunami of anger from sense of deprivation and helplessness that it will sweep away Pedder Road and Modinagar. And that it is also a form of corruption-a cashless corruption-not submitting to the laws which you get the administration enforce on others.
Both these examples show that our ruling elite has become so guilt-ridden that all it takes to freeze it in its track is a shout from some self-Righteous champion of some cause, “ You are doing this because you will get a cut !!”