Mumbai, here’s what happened while news channels were busy with SSR

News priorities and journalism

Vikhroli-Kanjurmarg at night. Pic: Ashwin John on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s been three months since Sushant Singh Rajput died by suicide but the swelling media coverage could deceive you into thinking that it was two days ago.

In fact, there was an unfortunate death two days ago.

(Actually, there were many, if you count the 300+ deaths Maharashtra has been recording all week. Its current total of coronavirus cases is more than a million. But we know you’re bored of all that.)

Anyway, back to the one death two days ago. A barricade on Western Express Highway fell on a pillion bike rider and killed him instantly. The incident resurfaced memories of the many lives lost on Mumbai’s roads that are less concrete and more loose cannon.

Roads and its many bosses

Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) contemptuously dismissed the incident. It blamed the contractor for a barricade so faulty that it came unhinged by soft September winds.

If the news channels were not so busy, they could have done a quick investigation into this by digging out the tender document to uncover who was given the contract and what kind of safety procedures had to be followed. Those more inclined could go deeper and understand the many jurisdictions on Mumbai’s roads and something about overlapping responsibilities and easy blame game. You can also learn the full forms of PWD, MPT and MSRDC along the way.

No flats for flamingoes

As you can tell, we are desperate for more civic journalism in Mumbai and its surrounding cities. In Citizen Matter’s 12 years of empowering citizen journalism, we have seen some extremely motivated citizens.

We need more citizens as passionate about exposing the government misuse of power as news channels were when actor Kangana Ranaut’s Bandra office was demolished.

About 30 kms from Mumbai is the gorgeous Talawe wetland. Lesser flamingoes (a breed of the bird) arrive here every year from their wintry homes in Siberia. But the City Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) doesn’t like these unsolicited visits.

It wants to develop the Talawe wetland into a water-guzzling golf course. We need your voices in favour of a flamingo sanctuary. And to get CIDCO to listen, Citizens of Navi Mumbai have knocked the doors of the court as well. But, the city needs to come together, just as news channels came together against Rhea Chakraborty. This is a need of the hour, else the pink-red thin legged beauties might not return next year.

Burnt Syringes

If you’ve already moved on from suicides and demolition to sniff out Bollywood’s drug menace, we have another case for you. About a 100 residents from Govandi, one of Mumbai’s least-liveable suburbs, have sent a notice to the Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board (MPSCB) to move the city’s only biomedical waste unit away from their neighbourhood.

It’s a pretty straightforward demand but no one is listening.

COVID-19, Mumbai Mirror reports, has doubled the biomedical waste unit’s load from 10 tonnes to 20 tonnes and now thick exhaust smoke from the chimneys is destroying their already polluted environment. Since the syringes are used for medical purposes and are now burnt, the Narcotics Cell won’t look into it, but perhaps citizens could and rally up support for the Govandi residents on family WhatsApp groups? These tactics worked very well when TV news covered the ‘SSR case’, as it has come to be known.

We have a list of many more issues that news media could take up. Like the six to seven hour long commutes of residents in absence of local trains, the lack of safe and humane jobs for returning migrants, students without access to smartphones or internet, and of course the ongoing Parliament sessions without the question-hour round.

We wanted to pass on the leads to other journalists but nowadays they don’t do any stories that don’t require crowding an airplane or heckling.

So we hope you will continue to support us till then.

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About Apekshita Varshney 45 Articles
Apekshita Varshney was Staff Reporter at Citizen Matters Mumbai.

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