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Skywalks turn haven for beggars, junkies

It appears that the hefty amount of over Rs 700 crore spent by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) on constructing the 36 skywalks in the city and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) has gone down the drain, as most of the structures that were thrown open for public use are either ill maintained or encroached by druggies and beggars.

Skywalks
Pics/Satyajit Desai, Shadab Khan

In addition, lack of adequate security and poor lighting have made it difficult for pedestrians, especially women, to use the skywalks during evening and nighttime.

Before the MMRDA planned and implemented the concept of skywalks in the city and the MMR, its officials said the structures would be well maintained once built.

In order to check whether the MMRDA lived up to its promise, Team MID DAY visited five of the skywalks in the Western and Central part of the city and judged them on five parameters — security and cleanliness, flooring, seating arrangement, encroachment and lights. The above-mentioned parameters were set on the promises made by the MMRDA officials in the past.

Western Line

Bandra (West)
During a survey of this skywalk, addicts were spotted doing drugs during evening peak hours on Friday evening. A security guard, standing at the far end of the skywalk, seemed to be unaware of the presence of the druggies. During an interaction with the security guard, it was learnt that two more guards were supposed to be on-duty. But despite best efforts the guards remained elusive.

Skywalk in Bandra (West)
Lights out: The stretch that passes over the arterial section of SV Road is submerged in darkness. Pic/Shadab Khan

The staircase at the entry point to the skywalk from Lucky Hotel had developed major cracks and was strewn with litter. Apart from doing drugs, the addicts were passing lewd comments at girls and women walking on the skywalk. Instead of taking action against the addicts, the guard asked the correspondent to mind his own business and leave the spot.

During nighttime, it was observed that the skywalk had several dark spots despite being properly lit. This includes the section that passes over the arterial SV Road. Hence pedestrians preferred to cross the road rather than using the skywalk.

Cost: Rs 18.47 crore
Security Guard(s): Yes, but only at station-end
Lights: Work only at some sections
Flooring: Broken at several places
Cleanliness & Dustbins: Not cleaned
Encroachment & Seating: Presence of beggars and druggies

Voices
Jitsan Tanwar, college student
Though these skywalks are meant for the welfare of pedestrians, it is difficult for women to use them as drug addicts pass lewd comments at them

Aslam Khan, production company employee
Despite spending crores of rupees, the MMRDA has failed to maintain these skywalks. Broken tiles, lack of dustbins and seating facilities, among others, have rendered them useless

Borivli (West)
The scenario at Borivli skywalk was equally disappointing. The section passing over the arterial SV Road was ill maintained and the walkway was decorated with paan stains at several spots. The Kora Kendra section of the skywalk had its own flaws. Broken tiles on the walkway and staircase exposed bureaucratic apathy in maintaining the structure.

Skywalk in Borivli (West)
Ruptured: Cracked flooring has made walking difficult for pedestrians. Pic/Nimesh Dave

When the correspondent reached the station-end, a single guard was spotted. But no such security arrangement was made for the section towards Sodawala lane. This forces the pedestrians to put their lives at risk and cross the busy road at nighttime.

Cost: Rs 30.40 crore
Security Guard(s): Only one
Lights: Yes
Flooring: Broken tiles at several spots
Cleanliness & Dustbins: Filthy
Encroachment & Seating: Encroached by addicts and beggars

Central Line

Cotton Green
The massive zig-zag structure at Cotton Green appeared to be a sheer waste of public money. When the correspondent visited the skywalk at 1pm, only a handful of pedestrians were seen using it.

Skywalk in Cotton Green
Catnapping: Urchins take their mid-morning nap. Pic/Atul Kamble 

Encroachment by hawkers and urchins was rampant. Some of the urchins had made themselves at home on the skywalk and had erected temporary shelters.

With zero security cover and seating arrangements at the skywalk, a few school children were spotted sitting dangerously on the railing. The walkway was painted with paan and gutka stains at several spots. Surprisingly, the skywalk appeared free of litter.

Apart from a few chipped tiles, the structure appeared to be in a good shape. The structure was built to facilitate office-goers and workers of small factories in the area.

Cost: Rs 22.8 crore
Security Guard(s): Yes
Lights: Working
Flooring: Cracked at several places
Cleanliness & Dustbins: Poorly maintained
Encroachment & Seating: Hawkers, urchins and temporary homes

Sion (West)
The skywalk, which stretches from Sion station to Sion circle, is seldom used as pedestrians prefer to cross the roads amidst heavy traffic. When the correspondent visited the structure, not a single security guard was seen at the skywalk.

Skywalk in Sion (West)
Spit-work: An unattended paan-stained dustbin. Pic/Satyajit Desai

Though dustbins were placed at regular intervals they were smeared with paan and gutka stains, revealing the fact that they are not being cleaned regularly.

A few pedestrians were spotted using the seating facility to enjoy the silence and emptiness. Though rarely used, tiles and flooring were damaged at several places. Also, a mound of debris was spotted at a corner on the walkway.

Cost: Rs 13.78 crore
Security Guard(s): None
Lights: Working
Flooring: Broken, with debris
Cleanliness & Dustbins: Poorly maintained dustbins
Encroachment & Seating: No

Jay Dantara, college student
I have rarely seen anyone use this skywalk to reach Sion station. Despite heavy traffic and speeding vehicles, pedestrians cross the road. The mere thought of climbing up and down forces me to cross the road

Kanjurmarg (East)
The skywalk appears to be under construction, as one half of the walkway is tiled while the other is made of concrete.

Apart from incomplete flooring, the structured lacked seating arrangement and had garbage accumulated at several spots. A few labourers painting the support structure said they would start and stop the work as per the contractor’s instruction.

Skywalk in Kanjurmarg (East)
Work in progress: Pedestrians use the incomplete walkway. Pic/Sameer Markande

Several beggars were spotted taking their mid-morning nap on the skywalk. One of them said she had taken up a temporary residence at the skywalk and been living there for the past couple of months.

Cost: Rs 7.75 crore
Security Guard(s): Just one
Lights: Working
Flooring: Work in progress
Cleanliness & Dustbins: No dustbins
Encroachment & Seating: Beggars present; no benches

Vinay Patil, a private firm employee
I always use the skywalk, as it is safer than crossing the roads. But the stairs are placed so awkwardly that it makes climbing up and down the structure a difficult task. In the nighttime, beggars take over the skywalk and make themselves comfortable at several locations along the walkway. Absence of a guard, most of the times, has made the situation worse

The other side
MMRDA Joint Project Director Dilip Kawathkar said, “As per our instructions, the skywalks in Mumbai and MMR are maintained on a daily basis, including cleaning and sweeping. We have also deployed security guards so that beggars don’t encroach them. If the people concerned are not maintaining the skywalk, then we will make sure that necessary action is taken to resolve the issue so that pedestrians aren’t inconvenienced.”¬†

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