Grant skywalk or shelter for the homeless

Mumbai : A day after Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan inaugurated the Grant Road skywalk, it was occupied by slumdwellers.

At 1 pm on Thursday, it had less than 50 users but at least 30 squatters. There was a squatter family every 100 metres of the 650-metre skywalk.

The homeless people seemed at ease on the skywalk with all their belongings tied up in neat bundles lying down along the sides of the walkway. Their children ran around picking marigolds left over from the previous day’s inaugural function. They seemed quite happy and comfortable in their newfound home. They literally had a solid roof over their heads now, it cost almost Rs 45 crore to build after all.

In fact, they were hostile when this correspondent took pictures of them from her cell phone. “Why are you disturbing us? Let us live in peace,’’ said an elderly woman.

 “The skywalk should not turn into a slum rehabilitation project,” said Shekhar Hattangadi, who has an office in the area.

Journalist Vidyadhar Date, who authored a book on pedestrians, said, “It is obvious that the footfall won’t be as much because there are some 50-odd steps to climb to reach up to the skywalk. The skywalk is also not handicapped-friendly.’’ MMRDA, which took six years to build the skywalk, anticipated a footfall of 60,000 per day. Local shopkeepers say there are not so many users in the first place.

On Thursday afternoon, pedestrians preferred walking across the road. Some mothers bringing their kids from school used the skywalk.

Otherwise, the Grant Road skywalk is a beautiful structure. A total of 16 cables support the oval shaped structure on Nana Chowk Junction. The needle at the center resembles the Seattle Needle. Its arms have been opened so the skywalk can be approached from five different locations Tardeo, Kemp’s Corner, Lamington Road, Girgaum Chowpatty and Opera House.

Adele Macdonald

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