Lok Sabha Elections 2024: What Mumbai civic groups want their MPs to address

As Mumbai readies for polls, civic groups share their demands from elected representatives - infrastructure, environment and public transport.

Even as summer heat sets new records in Mumbai, the city is gearing for elections on May 20 amidst chaotic political developments. As leaders jump the political parties, citizens are focussing on the official manifestos released by major political parties.

An election manifesto is a statement put out by a political party or a candidate defining their goals. It reflects the social issues that they promise to tackle should they be elected. As such this document becomes a compass for voters who can decide in which direction they would like to see the country go. 

Urban civic groups, having the experience of working on the ground, know the pulse of their cities, and what they need. Citizen matters spoke to some of these groups working in Mumbai, to understand what they would like to see in election manifestos. Here’s what they had to say.

Decentralisation of power and funds

“Our cities are not empowered to run themselves,” says Milind Mhaske of Praja Foundation, an NGO which works to hold city governments accountable. He explained that cities depend on both the state and central governments for funds, and so the centre is responsible for the cities’ upkeep to a considerable extent.

He spoke about the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act which came into effect in 1993 and bestows constitutional status to Urban Local Bodies (ULBS). According to this amendment, the State Legislature can enact laws to allow local bodies to function as self-government. It also allows for provisions for devolution of powers.

Although the manifesto is a document which encompasses the entire nation, it should also focus on the regional, says Milind. “Each city has its issues and its geography also determines it. Issues which manifestos should reflect upon from a western India perspective are mobility, housing, open spaces, public health care. (And) solid waste management across the country.” 

Each city is different, with its own needs and the city administrative body is the best judge of how to use funds allotted to it. He believes that citizens should prod their MPs to pave the way for such a transfer of power.

Read more: Praja report: Calls for better waste management as garbage collection goes up

Developing Navi Mumbai as business centre

Pamela Cheema, who is a part of two NGOs in Mumbai, AGNI and NAGAR, speaks about decongesting the business areas of Mumbai. “Why should there be only two business centres like BKC and Nariman Point?” she questions, adding that it is high time more business centres came up near Navi Mumbai.

The inception of Navi Mumbai as a satellite city to Mumbai lay in the need to reduce the pressure on Mumbai. It is a planned city, with multiple channels of connectivity to Mumbai. Moreover, an airport is soon coming up at Ulwe.

Pamela suggests that Mumbai should be opened up outward towards Navi Mumbai along the central line by building business centres there. The same could be done along the western line, by building business hubs further towards Virar. This will take reduce, at least partially, the massive pressure on the infrastructure of Mumbai, whether it is housing, transport or other resources.

Urban greening crucial for Mumbai

Over 2000 trees have been cut in Aarey Colony to make way for Mumbai Metro’s phase III. Pamela asks at what cost these infrastructure projects are being built and stresses the urgent need for urban greening. The reduction of green cover is justified by saying that the new infrastructure projects will cut travel time. “You have to ask yourself, those fifteen minutes, is it worth it?” she says.

Trees have been cut in Aarey Colony to make way for the metro car shed despite prolonged protests. Pic: Sanjiv Valsan

An analysis done by Mint shows that Mumbai is the least green metro with only 12.3% of the city under green cover. It offers only 4.4 square metres of green space per person. Pamela  underscores the need for parks and gardens in the concrete jungle of Mumbai. “All the Lok Sabha MPs from the city must concentrate on that,” she emphasises. 

Read more: Aarey tree felling: A reluctant green signal allows MMRCL to axe more trees

Mumbai needs Mobility and Transport

 Walking Project is a grassroot level advocacy campaign, which works towards the creation of a safe and convenient walking environment in Mumbai by fostering collaboration between citizens and governing bodies. Vedant Marathe, a volunteer with Walking Project gave Citizen Matters insights into what kind of work they would like elected representatives to carry out.

  • Non-motorised transport cells: Establish non-motorised transport cells which will oversee all that is needed for non-motorised transport, from signals to the condition of footpaths. These cells should include urban planners and architects. Build accessible and safe roads which lead to every station.
  • Accessibility audit: Carry out an annual third party accessibility audit of every road wider than 24 metres, including SV Road, Link Roads, LBS Marg. These roads see high foot traffic making such an audit necessary to improve walking conditions.
  • Parking policies: Implement parking policies to ensure prevention of haphazard parking.
  • Provisions for accessible markets: Provide specific zones and streets for hawkers so that streets near railway stations are decongested. Create accessible station-adjacent market places.
  • Transparent systems for accountability: Create transparent systems to access information about roads and projects going on in the city so that citizens can actively participate in governance by debating, discussing and putting forward their suggestions and demands. Design a common redressal system for grievances and impose penalties if the grievance is not addressed.
  • Uniform signage: Put up uniform signage across the city – on roads, trains, buses and metros. Ensure uniformity in signage on all three railway lines, especially signage meant for the disabled.
  • Means of safe crossing: Build public crossings over railway tracks in the form of foot over bridges (FOBs). The FOBs should not only be there at the station itself but also in between stations so that people can safely cross over from one side to the other. FOBs will also allow people to walk instead of using vehicles to travel. Construct FOBs at regular distances on highways for safe crossing.
Civic groups are asking for more electric buses to be introduced in Mumbai. Pic: BEST

In addition to this, both Milind and Pamela spoke about better and affordable public transport in Mumbai. “We must have a lot more surface transport, like buses,” asserts Pamela. She points out that metro tickets are expensive and could be beyond the ken of many. Her suggestion is to introduce electric buses. She relates how in Powai, where she lives, there are at least 26 buses all of which are old and create a racket when they run. She would like more electric buses to be introduced in the suburbs like it has been done in South Mumbai.

Read more: Walkability: Endless roadblocks force Bandra residents to map their own roads

Demands of senior Mumbaikars

The Joint Action Committee of different senior citizens’ organisations in Mumbai has released a document stating their demands. Senior citizens make up for a considerable part of the voter base, estimated at 25%. The number of senior citizens in India has seen a steady increase—in 2022 this group constituted 10.5 % of India’s population and by 2050 it is estimated that this figure will double, reaching 20.8%.

Increasingly, especially in cities such as Mumbai, senior citizens live without any support of the young – either as a couple or all alone. Though better medical facilities have translated to longer life spans, they are more lonely and vulnerable than before.

As a result of all this, the challenges to ensuring that senior citizens live a safe and dignified life have also risen. In view of all these factors, they have put forward the following demands:

  • Implementation of the National Policy on Senior Citizens, 2018 which has provisions to ensure financial and food security, health care, shelter and other needs of older persons, equitable share in development, protection against abuse and exploitation, and availability of services to improve the quality of their lives.
  • Fully implement the Atal Vayo Abhyuday Yojana (AVYAY) by the end of the year 2026. Appoint a panel to monitor its implementation.
  • Allocate a minimum of 10% of the total budget of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for the elderly.
  • Pass ‘The Maintenance and welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment)’ Bill, 2023 in the Parliament as soon as possible.
  • Withdraw the 18% GST levied on senior care accommodation and health care equipment as well life insurance premium.
  • Formulate a National Dementia Policy and invest in Research and Development on the same.
  •  Increase exemption in income tax to Rs 5 lakh. 
  • Start a monthly old age pension plan, which will guarantee Rs. 300 per month to senior citizens.
  • Provide special compartments for senior citizens in trains as well as special facilities for them at airports, stations and bus stops.
You can find more about the work of these organisations on these websites.
Praja Foundation: https://www.praja.org/
Walking Project: https://www.walkingproject.org/
As Lok Sabha Elections draw close, you can refer to these guides and explainers before you cast your vote.
Lok Sabha 2024: Voter guide to help you vote in this election
What makes your MP a true people’s representative?
Our cities are struggling; what do BJP and Congress manifestos promise them?
Mumbai: Which Parliamentary constituency do you belong to?

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