Reclaiming Mumbai’s Open Spaces
Although it may not seem like it, even with the Metro constructions and other ongoing projects Mumbai still has a lot of open space. It is just not being utilised in an efficient manner. Even with availability of space, Mumbaikars have not been able to enjoy a few basic facilities such as pedestrian safety and well designed footpaths. With this in mind, Moneylife Foundation had invited architect Pranav Naik, founder of Studio Pomegranate to share the successes he has had working on projects for private companies and many other interested parties. 
 
One such project involved financial services firm Motilal Oswal in improving the open space around their office in Prabhadevi, Mumbai. “They were interested in improving some of their space and get some publicity as well, because they are paying for it and also achieving their goals for Corporate Social Responsibility for tax cuts etc.” said Pranav.
 
At the most basic level, this project involved improving the pedestrian walkways around the office and placing trees or lights at the appropriate places, essentially maximising the available space. 
 
Pranav explained that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is happy to be involved in such projects as well because it is in a way free publicity for them as well. The entire process of beautifying and making efficient use of the open space around Motilal Oswal’s office, “involved different parties which included, professional RTI activists, politicians, local mafia and other Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) departments who want to come and extort some sums of money from you anyway.”
 
 
In his talk, Pranav gave several examples comparing Mumbai’s streets of the past with those today. “The surface of Bombay’s streets was for 100 years paved with limestone from Shahbad. The 21st century however saw the proliferation of the interlocking paver blocks in the city. Good limestone was removed, and replaced with poor quality uneven concrete.” 
 
 
To solve the issue outside of Motilal Oswal, the limestone was brought back, with a slight change in the format - a 7x7’ size and an increased thickness. According to Pranav, placed on a levelling layer of concrete, it makes the walking surface free of potholes, kinks, and is virtually indestructible. The stone is not treated but is set in with 6mm grooves, 6mm deep. 
 
 
Speaking on another project which they took up under the Tulsi pipe road in Lower Parel, Mumbai, Pranav reiterated how there was an interested party in this case as well but instead of a company, this time they were the local public. There was also additional interest from the local companies from the area - Phoenix, Lodha, HDFC bank etc.
 
This particular area is plagued with every kind of establishment on the road with insufficient infrastructure and is over saturated. As expected, pedestrians are most affected by this situation as they have to squeeze through leftover pockets, stumble on uneven or non-existent footpaths. 
 
Studio Pomegranate started work on this project in March 2016 with a thorough study of the area. A sample count of vehicles, interviews, visual inspections, and measurements were taken at every junction, level change, crossing, and physical divisions. Observations were noted, and solutions brainstormed in conjunction with municipal officers, traffic police, and other stakeholders. 
 
Pranav explained that “part of the solution calls for increasing pedestrian crossings, making existing crossings safe, accessible, adding public toilets, and dustbins.” Further design strategies made in conjunction with the traffic police include changing some U-turns, tweaking traffic signal locations, and adding traffic-calming measures. Making the space easily walk able, and instilling a sense of safety.
 
“The idea was, let it be an open space. Let the people do whatever they want,” explained Pranav. Emphasising the benefits, he reiterated how people can now wait, listen to music, play cricket and have a good time all simply because of open spaces. He also stressed that there have been no issues of vandalism in the area. 
 
 
Shockingly, the cost of doing such projects is well within the budget of the BMC, according to Pranav. He explained, “Mumbai has 2000 kms of road network, that’s 4000 kms of footpath. Assuming the cost the Studio Pomegranate incurred in repairing the footpath in our project, the total cost of fixing all the footpaths in Mumbai would be around Rs6000 crores. This is only 10% of the BMC budget in 10 year’s time.”
 
In his third example Pranav shared Studio Pomegrante’s work on the Nepean Sea Road. In this area there is a lack of pedestrian infrastructure, leading to confusion, and a dangerous walking environment. The lanes are 4m wide, while cars and buses are all less than 3m wide which leads to inordinate amount of space for vehicles, and a shortage of space for non-motorised users, and pedestrians. 
 
This area also has BEST bus stops that are poorly designed as they occupy entire footpaths, forcing pedestrians to walk on the road. Further issues in the region were taxi stands not having lanes, and occupying road space as well as vehicles being given priority at all junctions, leading to unsafe crossings for pedestrians, while also being confusing. 
 
Pranav shared some of the solutions which have been proposed to be implemented at the Nepean sea junction. They are thinking of having sheltered crossings at appropriate locations and moving the BEST bus stop to the middle of the junction. This way, the traffic is streamlined and more space is available for pedestrians. 
 
Pranav hopes that the work his company is doing is in a way an eye opener for the public and perhaps for the BMC as well, to bring about important changes for the city. 
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    COMMENTS

    S A Narayan

    1 year ago

    Very well done. But the problem in Mumbai will remain with politicos and slumlords cornering spaces and renting them out to hawkers, which is the bane of this city. Sooner or later enroachments will mar the beautiful spaces. I hope I am wrong.

    R V RAU

    1 year ago

    This is ideal for the Municipal Corporation which encourages the concept of Local Community Management to clean your own lanes and beautify your own lanes.

    House taxes should be kept to the bare minimum. There is no point adding to the 50,000 Cr corpus of MCGM.

    Residents of a particular streatch of lanes (off the main roads) should pay private agencies directly to maintain, enhance and "beautify" their locality and lane. This may involve paying the local slumlord for the favour of not taking over or blocking the lane for the slumlords private use.

    Similarly in commercial areas every building should pay private agencies to beautify their corner of he city. This may involve paying off local mafia and the MCGM officials.

    This is the way it operates in many rural areas where the local mafia (politico?) will challenge any NGO that wants to do good locally by asking "What is in it for me" ?

    Nakul Kumar Reddy

    1 year ago

    Iam claiming the open spaces

    Bicycles are the Way Forward for a Healthier and Sustainable Mumbai
    “Even though India is the second largest manufacturer of bicycles in the world, Mumbai is still ranked 97th when it comes to cycling,” said Firoza Suresh, a cycling enthusiast and director of the Smart Commute Foundation (SCF). She was speaking at an event organised by Moneylife Foundation on making utilising Mumbai’s open spaces and making it more cycling friendly. 
     
     
     
    We all know about the health benefits of taking a bicycle to work or for covering short distances. It also an economical and eco-friendly option compared to the traditional 2 or 4 wheeler. But as Firoza explained in her talk, the biggest deterrent for people in adapting to a bicycle for transportation, “unlike running or walking, where you just wear your shoes and travel, for a bicycle you have to purchase or already own the vehicle.”
     
    Firoza, through SCF, has pledged to promote a healthier, greener and happier city by encouraging people to adopt cycling as a means of daily commute. She shared that since it’s inception in 2012, SCF has taken part in various cycling initiatives in the city such as #cycle2work, #mecyclerider and Get Cycloned - The Smart Commute Way. One of their many goals is to convert 50% of a Mumbai’s population to bicycle users by 2030. 
     
    Using herself as an example, Firoza explained that “A bicycle as a vehicle is very unique, it acts as a fitness machine - people who just want to go to nearby locations can ride the bicycle and come back; people use it to commute - cycle to work, I even take it to meetings and conferences.” In fact, she had also come to the event riding her bicycle from Juhu. 
     
     
     
    Firoza is also the bicycle Mayor of Mumbai and there are a total of 41 such mayors in India thus far. This idea of a bicycle mayor comes from a social enterprise from Amsterdam called BYCS, that works to transform cities to make them more environmentally friendly. Using Amsterdam as an example, Firoza explained how the city had completely transformed over a period of 30 years from a car centric model to a bicycling and pedestrian friendly city. She noted, “the change did not happen overnight and in fact involved long term efforts from both the public and the government.”
     
    To achieve the same in Mumbai will require similar sustained efforts from the public. Firoza hopes to increase ridership in Mumbai to 1 lakh by 2023 and in turn force authorities to “build better facilities - cycle stands, tracks, pothole free roads and better urban infrastructure”.
     
     
    “Mumbai is blessed to be a very linear city and the task of converting the population to cycling should not be difficult. Since the last 50-60 years Mumbai has always had the ‘invisible’ cyclists - dabbawalas, istriwalas etc. They have already created an invisible cycling track for us” Firoza explained. 
     
     
    Answering the concerns of many on whether cyclists would be safe travelling on Mumbai’s pothole ridden or traffic congested roads, Firoza said “ I feel cushioned on the road. I don’t feel threatened by a bus driver or a car driver. Morever, there is a certain amount of respect when other drivers see you cycling with a helmet on.”
     
    SCF is currently working with government bodies and cycling communities to establish cycling tracks under existing Metro lines. The idea is to utilise the existing space in the median under a metro as a dedicated bicycle track. Firoza believes this to be a positive step towards making Mumbai more bicycle friendly. 
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    COMMENTS

    Prasanna

    1 year ago

    Pune used to be city of bicycles. In 1970s I would bike all over and around Pune without any difficulty. Today if try to ride a bike, the scooters and mo-bikes do not give right of way. They in fact make your life difficult to cycle. There are no dedicated cycle tracks. These are only for names sake. No one bothers about the cyclists. Its a pity that are politicians and bureaucrats are purposely dumb, deaf and blind to the situation. Our children will have to a pay a heavy price for not being able to cycle and keep the city green and pollution free.

    ramchandran vishwanathan

    1 year ago

    Firoza , Amsterdam has world class transportation . Roads are equally good. We will end up with health hazards of we cycle on such roads in Mumbai besides accidents .
    Hopefully when the metro is operational across all the promised routes and the roads are a tad better we can think of cycling .

    “If PMC bank depositors need a solution they have to get engaged in large numbers in a legal process”
    “Justice for PMC Bank customers,” was the collective voice of hundreds of depositors and customers of scam-hit Punjab & Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank and experts. Moneylife Foundation, along with All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA) had organised a public meeting to understand issues with PMC Bank and others, demand answers from the regulators and government and discuss the way forward.
     
    The expert panel consisted Girish Kuber, Editor Loksatta, Advocate S Balakrishnan, who was Bureau Chief of Times of India, Devidas Tuljapurkar, General Secretary of Maharashtra State Bank Employees Federation (MSBEF) and Joint Secretary of AIBEA, Priya Dharshini- senior research associate with Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA) and Sucheta Dalal, Managing Editor of Moneylife and Founder-Trustee of Moneylife Foundation.
     
     
    Initiating the discussion, Mr Girish Kuber touched upon the urgent need to have a fool-proof mechanism to control and regulate the banking system. He cited an old joke to highlight the recent series of frauds in banks, “Robbery is a job of amateurs. Professionals set up a bank.” 
     
     
    The dual regulation for co-operative banks ends up with the co-operative banks getting a step motherly treatment from everyone. It is a sad state of affairs and with all the political connections associated the bank, regulation often has to wait till elections are over. 
     
    According to Advocate S Balakrishnan, the RBI needs to act with transparency and must be made accountable for the current co-operative bank imbroglio. 
     
    He said that he finds it extremely disturbing that the dice is heavily loaded against the common man. Middle class people end up paying a heavy price for all these scams. 
     
     
    It is extremely worrying that depositors across co-operative banks are panicking about their hard earned money and there is an urgent need for a sustained unified joint effort to take on the RBI, he said. He called on all the aggrieved people to join forces and file a writ petition. 
     
    He added disappointedly “The RBI is the watchdog but its response after the fraud came to light, has been vague and non-commital”. He called for an urgent detailed forensic audit of the RBI itself, given that “the central bank functions in the most opaque manner”. 
     
     
    Mr Tuljapurkar, who as a whistle blower in Bank of Maharashtra (BoM), has exposed fraud in BoM in the past, feels that in the current atmosphere it would be wrong to only speak about the PMC bank case in isolation. 
     
    He said that despite regular audits, inspection and concurrent audits, banks regularly end up in defrauded. The system is rotten and if we need to fix the system then we need to fight unitedly. 
     
    Priya Dharshini from CFA said that the problem is not specific to the PMC bank. The nature of the regulator institution has been changing in the last few years. Protecting depositors’ money now ranks far lower in the RBI’s priority list. 
     
     
    Ms Dalal said that one co-operative bank fails every 2-3 months. There are more than 1500 co-operative banks. Hence bailouts cannot work for all banks. It has already been 18 days and a takeover might still be possible. But any future buyer needs to have a very clear picture of the status of PMC Bank. The buck stops at RBI and we need official answers. The window of opportunity is very small and we need to build up the pressure and look for solutions to resolve the impasse. 
     
    Several prominent citizens, activists, entrepreneurs and lawyers were also present for the meeting.
     
    Participating in the discussion, Murali Neelakantan, who is former global general counsel of Cipla and former senior partner of Khaitan & Co, said that the only thing that could make an impact would be if even 1% of the 300,000 depositors (3000 people) come together and file a writ petition. 
     
     
    We have put together a legal team, two senior counsels from the Supreme Court who are wiling to come and help fight this legal battle. 
     
    It can only work if each aggrieved person attending this discussion comes and attends the court hearing. Even if a few thousand depositors come and attend the court hearing, it will build huge pressure on the court. He also explained the difference in strategy: filing a PIL vs filing a writ petition. 
     
    Z. B Inamdar who was working for Bombay Merchantile bank since 1986, shared his personal experience as a banker and a whistleblower. The number of people coming forward to file the writ petition would play a major role in building up pressure.
     
     
    If you want to be part of the legal process, please fill up this survey and get in touch with us. Email: foundation@moneylife.in or Whatsapp: +91-704-515-6415
     
    Or Use the QR Code
     
     
     
    Moneylife Foundation
    304, 3rd Floor, Hind Service Industries Premises, Off Veer Savarkar Marg, Shivaji Park,
    Dadar (W), Mumbai – 400 028. Landmark: Chaityabhoomi lane.
    Contact: +91 22 49205000

     

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    COMMENTS

    nadeem

    1 year ago

    Keep up the good work..!

    shivaprasad chhatre

    1 year ago

    To aggressively address PMC like problems I appeal to RBI & Govt to consider the following:
    1. Increase size withdrawal per depositor customer to Rs 25,000 or ts 5,0000 (not Rs 1000 as in most of the cases). This will reduce their hardship to some extent.
    2. PSU/New Pvt Banks should also be subjected to this / similar stringent action (PSU Banks may not be excluded) instead of PCA
    3. Other standalone options such as a change in Management/ key personnel etc to be explored first, wherever possible

    4. Enhancing Insurance Cover: Presently eligible deposits to the tune of Rs1,00,000/- are covered under the DICGC cover. With the rise in general income levels resulting in an increase in the size of individual bank deposits, this ceiling of Rs 1,00,000/- was considered insufficient by RBI had appointed Damodaran Committee (who submitted its final report way back in the year 2011). It recommended RBI & Govt that this cover should be raised to at least Rs 5,00,000/- to encourage individuals to keep all their deposits in a bank convenient for them. Now we are in 2019 it paltry cover of Rs 100000. In the USA it is USD 100000.
    Further, a strict ‘time limit’ should be stipulated to settle the DICGC insurance claims once the bank is de-licensed.
    Till the time the cover is enhanced depositors/public should be well informed on matter How to get maximum Deposit Insurance (DICGC) Cover using different channels.
    5. RBI may not give blanket approval for raising Tier-II bonds (in the form of ‘LTD’) as in case of PMC Bank. It may ensure clear directions about adding an important clause in offer document (altogether missing in case of PMC Bank, please refer annexure), advise banks correctly on the matter of nomination, direct banks on payment of proper stamp duty to this debt product (in due consultation with the stamp authority, missing in PMC bank’s case), and provide clarity on listing of these bonds issued as LTD, following norms on retailing of debt instruments (unless privately placed).
    RBI should lay-down strict criteria to cap raising LTD/tier-II bonds which currently termed by RBI as ‘LTD’.
    RBI may revisit LTD its directions issued on DCB. BPD. MC 10/09.18.201 /2015-16 dt: 01-07-2015 by amending its directions UBD.PCB.Cir No.4/ 09.18.201/-8-09 dt: 15-07-2008, consequential to my approaching HC of Bombay and it’s communication to RBI.

    6. Step up off-site and on-site inspection of large coop banks and reduce the periodicity and strict follow-up on compliance. RBI may set-up department for Coop banks inspection like DBS.
    7. Depending on the time likely to taken by a regulated entity to address the regulatory concern, set appropriate period for restrictions 3 or 6 months and extend in 3-6 months period instead of 6 months each time.

    8. Speedily consider exceptional cases of release of funds to depositors having serious medical problems based on merits of the case (within existing DICGC limits) based on restrictive criteria pre-fixed to be set off against the DICGC claim amount in case of the bank is subject to be liquidated.
    9. It would be ideal if broad reasons for stringent directions are communicated to the public at large appropriately, so that rumour mills will be less active. RBI may also examine other options rather than ‘knee jerk’ action like this.
    10. Speedily consider exceptional cases of release of funds to depositors having serious medical problems based on merits of the case (within existing DICGC limits) based on restrictive criteria pre-fixed to be set off against the DICGC claim amount in case of the bank is subject to be liquidated.
    With more and more banks going to be set up after ‘on TAP’ licensing to small Finance, Payment banks etc there should be a proper mechanism to monitor these type of stringent actions.
    I wish there is a need to highlight these matters to public at large, that would put public pressure on banking regulator and government and force them to have a debate before the customers of another bank face similar problem.
    ( Shivaprasad Laxman Chhatre)
    Land: 020 22947152

    VkJain

    1 year ago

    I am surprised at Ms.Santhanam 's comments, obviously made out of her ignorance or are simply motivated. Either way, it is a big dis-service to depositors and account holders of PMC Bank; by attempting to tarnish and discourage rare organisations and individuals like Sucheta Dalal who are fighting to get justice to 3 lakh defrauded persons, at huge pesonal cost and risk. This attitude is deplorable.

    Virendra Jain
    Founder Midas Touch Investors Association

    Girija Santhanam

    1 year ago

    It is good business for media to keep on reporting about such financial scams. But what changes do these lead to- in the long run? Money Life has reported about thousands of scams earlier and will continue to attract traffic to its website by reporting thousands more in the future. Will it really benefit the common man? What is the materiality behind arranging all these seminars? I am afraid that these exposures are not hard-hitting enough and look slimy to me - just sensationalize the issue and attract traffic to the website. A far cry from the earlier days when this magazine was celebrated for its innovative approach to meaningful journalism. Today, there is only sensationalization everywhere around.

    REPLY

    Sucheta Dalal

    In Reply to Girija Santhanam 1 year ago

    Thanks Ms Santhanam -- just one question. Why do you bombard us with your attempts at writing if you find our efforts "slimy". Also, Moneylife Foundation arranges seminars to spread financial literacy. It is a NGO, set up for that purpose and to guide people. If you make the effort -- which is not too much to ask since you want to write for us and have two pieces pending even today -- you should at least have known about Moneylife Foundation (http://foundation.moneylife.in) -- you would then know "the materiality behind arranging all these seminars" !! Thanks for revealing your inner thoughts and wisdom to us in this space!

    Mandar V Bhamre

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 1 year ago

    Mam' please accept my HUMBLE gratitude and thankgiving for conducting such informative lectures and gatherings. Most of these are available for general public on youtube @ legitimate cost of a DATA charges .
    I am too tiny to apprise your efforts.

    Abhijit Gosavi

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 1 year ago

    She actually writes pieces for you and then writes this?!!! My goodness. No, I would not let her write anything again for me. :-) What's going on?

    Anyway, this has always been the fear at the back of my mind regarding private banks too. I've been telling my family members that you need to keep your money in govt. banks until RBI increases the deposit limit that is guaranteed ( in case the bank collapses) to about Rs. 20 Lakhs or so from the small value (Rs 2 Lakhs?) that they guarantee now. My guess though is as far as cooperative banks are concerned, there is no such thing, am I right?

    Vavrinec Kryzanek

    1 year ago

    Girish Kuber: “Robbery is a job of amateurs. Professionals set up a bank.” That;s just garbage.

    Mohan Krishnan

    1 year ago

    I have recovered by robbed savings by filing a criminal case. Please file a criminal case against RBI and Finance Ministry. Just crying is no use.

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