Taking a serious note of the run-down condition of skywalks in the city, top officials at Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) have instructed the concerned officials to look into the matter at the earliest.
The instruction comes days after MiD DAY reported about the poor condition of around 36 skywalks, which were constructed by spending Rs 700 crore of the taxpayers’ money. MMRDA has now asked its officials to maintain the skywalks, and also make sure the malfunctioning lights are fixed.
“The higher authorities have taken a serious note of the article published in MiD DAY wherein the bad condition of skywalks with no lights and encroachment by drug addicts was highlighted. Instructions to concerned officials entrusted with maintaining the skywalk have been passed on asking them to see to it that the issue is addressed at the earliest, so that pedestrians don’t have to face inconvenience,” said a senior MMRDA official, on condition of anonymity.
MiD DAY, on November 12, in an article ‘Skywalks turn haven for beggars, junkies’, surveyed five skywalks only to find that maintenance promises made by MMRDA officials before construction of these structures have fallen flat.
It was also highlighted how the hefty amount of over Rs 700 crore spent by the 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 were either ill maintained or encroached upon by drug addicts and beggars.
Joint Project Director Dilip Kawatkar said, “We will see to it that all skywalks where tiles are broken or the lights are non-functional are repaired at the earliest. In regard to the issue of beggars and drug addicts settling on the skywalk, we will be taking help from the local police station and also asking the security guards stationed at the skywalks to see to it that beggars don’t enter the skywalk.”
MiD DAY contacted former MMRDA Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad. Below is the SMS exchange.
Reporter: The skywalk project was your brainchild, and MMRDA had said that the project will be a success.
Ratnakar Gaikwad: About 10 lakh people are using the skywalks every day, and it is therefore a successful project. A skywalk is basically a foot over bridge (FoB) and like FoBs, some are used more often than others.
Reporter: Do you think the money allegedly wasted on the skywalk project could have been utilised in another venture?
Ratnakar Gaikwad: On the contrary, this is the only project that will permanently provide advertising revenue to MMRDA. First, the skywalk cost was Rs 10 crore and the highest bid for the said skywalk (advertising revenue) was Rs 79 crore. Due to the sudden financial slowdown, demand for advertising has gone down temporarily.
The project was prepared by MSRDC in 2005 after studying around 20 railway stations and was recommended by World Bank as part of SATIS and not by me.