about 3 years ago
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By Ruma Dubey

We buy a dress in an impulse, convincing ourselves that it enhances our looks the best. But after one wear, you realise two things – it does not serve the purpose of making you look better than you already did and secondly, you did not actually need this dress at all. But what to do? You are stuck with it; after some months of no wear-only guilt look, you eventually give it away.

That’s the story of an unwanted dress and frankly speaking, it does not exactly cast a hole and make any permanent damage to you financials.

But what about a monorail? Can we afford to treat it like a dress; discard it because we realized much later, after crores of rupees and usage of precious space and displacement of people, that we did not have any need for it at all.

India’s first monorail was shut down in November’17 after spending over Rs.3000 crore. The reason – there were a series of mishaps and glitches which endangered lives. Could it also be because the monorail was making losses due to lack of enough commuters?

Running between Wadala and Chembur, when the project was dreamt up, the estimate was of 1.5 lakh commuters per day. Instead, the average daily ridership was just 19,000 over the last 3 years (it began in 2014). The monorail was making a loss of Rs.3 lakh per day.

Under Phase-2, the monorail was to link one all the way from Wadala to Jacob Circle. The project missed its deadline 15 times and now with this Phase-one shut down, the entire stretch of 19.5 kms through the city looks like a gigantic waste; a monorail which no one wanted in the first place.

Over Rs.4000 crore of public money; your and my money is currently being flushed down the drain. Isn’t this a colossal waste of money and precious space? MMRDA says that operations will begin from 2019 but till date, there is not even one operator in sight, willing to run this monorail.

In fact, a report by the state government-appointed Public Accounts Committee has already declared the monorail as a “waste of public money” as it failed to decongest existing transport networks. 

One cannot help but get frustrated – apart from this nonfunctional monorail, we have the ugly “skywalks” in so many parts of the city – all reminders of projects being taken on just for the sake of making money and put up a showcase of infrastructure built. It’s all about been-there-done-that kind of attitude.

Building any piece of infrastructure in a country like India, especially in a congested city like Mumbai is a near impossible task. After having done that, allowing this piece of transport to waste away; are we really so rich? Can we afford to run such unsuccessful experiments? When the monorail was planned, that time itself, with the Metro also being planned, we all had wondered for the need of this “toy” train running through some of the uncongested areas of Mumbai.

We can only hope and pray that the project gets up and running; increasing the connectivity to congested areas would be the only way to see it make some money; or else, it can become a case study for failed projects of the world -  a handbook on what not to do! The city is looking like a moon crater and there is no solution for that; how can priorities get so skewed?

Throughout all this, could not help but think about the fate of the super expensive Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train. No one thinks we need that; yet it is being made.

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