Q: Prime Minister Modi has given a clarion call for Atmanirbhar Bharat. How is MMRDA supporting it?
Materials or products are procured from foreign countries when you don't get them in India. However, manufacturers are trying to produce everything here. But there may still be some highly technical products or parts which are not being manufactured in India. Does that mean I should not create the infrastructure? Public needs infrastructure to become atmanirbhar. So, if you want the metro so that people's mobility gets faster, they become more productive and become atmanirbhar. If some parts of metro coaches, signals, etc., are coming from outside India, should we wait till the factory is established in India? And, during that time should I not construct the metro? These are practical issues. But, the fact remains that the Government of India has issued a GR that we give preference to Indian manufacturers and we are supporting it.
Q: How is the ‘Make in India’ initiative helping infrastructure development?
Posterity will remember the MMRDA for giving an order to BEML for manufacture of metro rolling stock in India. It is the biggest order of any metro line given to an Indian company. So MMRDA in that way is a pioneer in Make in India and the Atmanirbhar Bharat movement.
Q: Why did MMRDA scrap a tender for procurement of new rakes for the monorail?
My decision of cancelling the monorail tender is a big example, because there are no Indian manufacturers. Only two Chinese companies had shown interest and were trying to influence our decision-making process, and change certain terms and conditions. And, two Chinese companies were fighting with each other for the tender. I cancelled it and started talking to the Indian manufacturers, requesting them to take it up. Now, BEML, BHEL and others have shown interest. I know this is delaying the monorail rolling stock procurement, but then, in any case, rolling stock takes two years to be delivered. So even if the designing starts in India and not outside the country, it will still take almost two years. So I don't think it will be delayed much, as designing, preparing the prototype and then manufacturing will take a while.
Q: How will the Metro projects, as well as the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, solve the transportation problem in Mumbai?
Eighty lakh passengers (includes to and fro) use public transport for various reasons. During peak hours, the congestion is 12-18 persons per sq m in public transport, and this is the crush density of people travelling today. It is very inhuman. The ideal situation should be six people per sq m. Because of this inhuman condition in which people travel in suburban trains and buses, eight to 10 people die on the tracks of Mumbai. This is a terrible situation. In such a scenario, the 337-kms of metro rail once completed, will create capacity for more than 12 million passengers who can travel every day in the most comfortable situation (which is six persons per sq m). We are providing double capacity, with double comfort, faster speed, nearer accessibility from work and residential spaces. All this will ease the way people travel today and work in Mumbai.
Q: Why did it take so long to create such infrastructure facilities in Mumbai?
If I go back in history, people in the 60s started talking about the MTHL (Mumbai Trans Harbor Link). In the late 70s and early 80s, people started talking about metro lines. From then, it was at the discussion table and it took 10 years for the metro line one to get completed. There was no sense of urgency then. But, delay in a project increases its cost. People lose faith in the government body. Today, I say MMRDA will complete metro lines in four-and-half years, excluding the COVID period as it is beyond anyone's control. If you exclude COVID, I could have completed the metro lines 2A and 7 in four-and-a-half years straight. So against the 10 years of metro line-1 undertaken on public private partnership (PPP), that the MMRDA today is completing these metro lines in four-and-a-half years is a matter of pride. We have put all our efforts, and become more professional in our decision-making process. Certainly, we have a lot of support from the government, earlier and the present, and that's why the decision-making process has shortened. Interestingly, the whole city is seeing the way MMRDA is creating these infrastructures.
Q: Do you agree with the notion that Mumbaikars have a lot of patience?
I don't agree. Having patience for 10 years is asking for too much. No one has that much patience and that's how respect for government authorities gets eroded. In 2022-2023, Mumbaikars will see the results, because a lot of projects will be finished by then. MTHL is slated to be completed by 2022. By 2023, Mumbai will go through a major change. Mumbai will not be the city of yesteryears. It will be a city of the future to reckon with. Coastal Road, MTHL, Navi Mumbai Airport, and all these metro lines are coming up.
Q: Does MMRDA have a sound financial model in place at this critical time?
As far as MMRDA is concerned, investors are assured that they cannot find a better agency than MMRDA funding and supporting these projects. We have not shown any sign of weakness in that regard, and we are very strong and can manage things.
Q: As Metropolitan Commissioner, how do you see the road ahead for infrastructure projects?
Mumbai is slated for a big change. All these infrastructure projects that we are creating will revitalise Mumbai, and it will re-establish it as an international metropolis after all this infrastructure is created.