With the onset of the rainy season, I now have to drop my wife every morning to her school. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the place from our residence, out of which half the time is taken to negotiate a stretch of about 200 meters just in front of the school.
The place is well connected; a straight wide lane connects the school to the main road. On both sides of the lane, there are multi storied buildings and housing complexes. People living there are all quite well to do and more or less belong to the upwardly mobile class. Being in Navi Mumbai, the roads and buildings are well planned, well maintained and spacious too. Everybody would like to stay here and definitely aspire to buy a flat in such a locality
BUT IT TAKES ME MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES TO CROSS THE LANE, A STRETCH OF ABOUT 200 METRES IN THE MORNING. Why ? Because on both sides of the spacious lanes, cars belonging, presumably to the owners or tenants living in those flats and building complexes are lined up on both sides of the road,. And with parents coming out to drop children to schools in their own vehicles and school buses picking and dropping children from this school and also to other schools, it is a two-way traffic and becomes dangerous considering everybody is in a hurry and kids walking and crossing the road. In spite of two cars parked on both sides of the lane, it is wide enough to accommodate and allow two more normal sized cars to pass, in opposite directions. But the moment, someone drives out from the gates of one of the housing complexes or a big school bus stops to pick or drop children, there is a clogging of the lane. Honking and cursing by irate drivers start immediately as everyone is in a hurry.
I am sure this scene is repeated during the afternoon too when the schools close for the day. And this is not a one off or a unique thing happening to me or only at that place. I am sanguine that if this can happen in a well-planned locality like Nerul in Navi Mumbai, much more and exponentially irritating clogging of roads are happening every day in the thousands of bustling towns and cities of our vast country. It is nothing new. And it will carry on like this. That's what people will say. Only I am bothered because I have a nit-picking, intolerant and negative mind. The remedy to this is having a deep breath and forget about it.
OK, so far and so good. Let me come to the crux of the issue which is prickly enough and make everybody lose the slight hint of a smile at my lunatic raving and ranting.
WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THIS ROAD BLOCK? The answer is simple enough - Occupation of the common space provided by the Municipality authorities in a planned city by the residents there. Yes, that's the truth. Bitter, maybe. Why, some of us might be doing the same thing. You can't blame people for parking their cars on the roads. Where will they park their cars then? The government must do something, the municipality must do something, the resident owners' committee must do something, the local council-member must do something. Well, in effect, everybody must do something other than the person who parks his car every day on the side of the common road, as if he owns the space by virtue of his buying or renting a flat in the adjacent housing complex.
And mind it, none of the people who do this are impoverished. They are well heeled and their families belong to the top ten percent of the population of this country by income considerations. In many of the cases, the car parked outside is the second or the older car in the household with the costlier and newer one safely parked in the parking space within the housing complex.
I recently discussed this phenomenon with a gentleman. He immediately got offended and in a very much irritated tone told me that I was not saying anything about the slums that grow up in different places by the encroachment of government land. Then he accused me of harboring an anti-elite bias and also being a habitually anti growth person. Rounding off, he marked me as a Communist - speaking like a bloody Commie - that was the exact word he used. Probably he meant it as the vilest abuse that can be made without being charged of being an abusive person.
And this is exactly the point I want to make. We, the privileged, park our cars on the roads, the common spaces provided to make our living nicer, as a matter of right and perks of being privileged. Then from the cozy confines of our aseptic and comfortable lives, we castigate the poor for the "Jhopadpatti" they create by encroaching. The average price of a car nowadays would be more than Rupees Five lacs. It will take 10 years for a person to earn that amount ( not savings ) going by the minimum wages paid in India. And needless to say, not everybody is paid the minimum wage prescribed.
The other point that can be made is that the lack of planning both at the individual , societal and governmental level. You will find that numerous housing colonies come up and people buy them without providing common spaces, for parking. I myself have such an experience. People don't plan for their future growth while buying a flat because the main consideration is the price, not the living. And then later, after they attain a certain level of disposable income, they think of buying a vehicle. And for parking, the roads and the common spaces are naturally the choices. The real problem is of the mindset. People come and live in cities but can't discard the village from their thinking. So just like the bullock cart that is parked in front of the house in villages, they park their vehicles in front of their house in cities too, be it a public road or a common facility.
There will be many who will point to the lack of good public transport system in our cities and towns. And they may be correct, but to an extent only. It is not the only reason. If you don't agree then I request you to visit places like Cuffe Parade, Nariman point and other such places which are considered to be posh areas and see for yourself how the cars of the rich and powerful occupy the roads. Some of them may even be costlier than a small flat in a smaller city. I can well imagine what happens in the numerous towns which have come up without any plans throughout the country.