Social awareness platforms
Asha Bajpai, Dean, School of Law, Tata Institute of Social Sciences says that going by the current scenario and corruption levels at different governmental organisations, there’s a greater need for social forums and organisations who could provide information to people about their rights. “From legal issues starting from your rights when you’re arrested, to child and women welfare, to your day-to-day activities like how to apply for a ration card or use RTI to find out about discrepancies in a governmental hospital, these forums help solve many problems. Many aren’t aware that they don’t need to pay extra for a copy of an FIR, and that it’s their right. We need more social forums with experts from various fields that can help people,” she says. These experts are not easily accessible to the commoner, and many can’t afford their services. Bajpai reiterates that we need more forums and NGOs to provide necessary information and guidance to people. Dug up roads cause traffic jams; there is always construction underway in some area. A proper system must be in place to inform people about these, in advance. Social forums can force authorities to ensure correct methods are followed, and highlight discrepancies.
Though Mumbai witnessed a large number of cultural festivals in 2012 including the Ruhaniyat, Kala Ghoda Festival, the Indo-German Urban Mela, Celebrate Bandra and many more including two literary festivals, the metropolis could still do with a lot more. Compare our itinerary with the cultural programmes, in other cities like Pune and Bangalore, and we still fall short. In terms of encouraging theatre, music and dance, many other cities still seem to score higher. “We could do with at least 30 to 40% more such events, which highlights the rich culture we have,” says Mahesh Babu, Managing Director of Banyan Tree Events. “Though, nowadays, we see a rising number of performances by music bands, when it comes to World music, Folk and Classical, Mumbai needs a lot more to cater to the large population that is interested in our culture and music,”
Brinda Miller — Festival Curator of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, maintains that we can utilise open spaces in a better way. “It’s time that we start doing this. First and foremost, we should display a lot of public art and with that I don’t mean only statues of leaders. Government should provide artistic sculptures, interestingly-made street benches and murals. Public art needs to be encouraged. Besides, the garden division of the BMC should take better care of Mumbai’s gardens,” she asserts. Work is done on the gardens when they are created but then no maintenance takes place, which is the most important thing. She adds that it is sad to learn that Mumbai is a city that has no water fountains. “Authorities feel that if a water fountain is erected, it will be misused, people will use it as a bathing space, taxi drivers will wash their cars there. But why will that happen? We have a city that has tremendous amount of water, so we should not think like that,” Miller feels.
Local food disricts
A common visual in English movies or TV shows depicts a non-Indian’s visit to the country, where he deals with an upset tummy after a spicy roadside snack feast. But it’s not just these who suffer from unhygienic eating-places; even Mumbaikars face it. “The city can serve as a great food destination with its mixed bag of migrant cultures and their cuisines but very few promise good health along with a good bite,” feels food writer and stylist, Michael Swamy.
Good examples to vouch for include the Udipis at Matunga, a food district that showcases South Indian food, and Mohammed Ali Road during Id. Sections of the city dedicated to food in an organised way rather than pop-up shops are what we would love to see. “Singapore has great food districts with hygiene being of high importance. You would not even think twice before eating from New York’s hotdog and frankfurter stalls. Proper regulations and their implementation is what will help,” he adds. Here, anyone can pay a municipal official and start a roadside stall. Juhu beach’s popular stalls have got their act together but hygiene remains questionable. The Bade Miya stretch in Colaba is another apt example of present food districts.
Environmentalist Hari Chakyar of Project 35 Trees uses the example of the Maharashtra Nature Park — a one-time dump that helped maximise the city’s green quotient. “The NGO EcoFolks conducts environment orientation courses about the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP); teams work to protect mangrove forests in Dahisar and Mira Road. Participation from Mumbaikars is crucial; they need to conserve what is left of the greenery,” he says.
Chakyar’s suggestions include creating terrace / vertical gardens, growing trees in tubs and buckets, to overcome space issues. “People with space to
spare must make use of it to plant trees. If trees are felled for development, new saplings must be planted and maintained. Traffic islands can be made into green zones. Environmental education must be interactive and practical,” he adds. Elsie Gabriel, founder of Young Environmentalists Programme Trust, believes BMC parks should be registered, accounted for and made public in each ward. “Without this, they fall prey to builders and developers,”