How Navi Mumbai came to be

Many believe that creation of Vashi township is a historic blunder!

The government brushed aside recommendations to start planning the new city from Belapur, after the Parsik Hills to save the people from the toxic pollution from Thane-Belapur industrial belt. The counter argument was that Belapur would not find acceptance because of the long distance from Chembur and that there was no mass rapid transport system and the suburban trains terminated at Mankhurd itself, miles away.

How Navi Mumbai came to be

Let us now say, in the beginning, there was no New Bombay and then V P Naik Government said let there be a NEW Bombay! (In the beginning there was no Navi Mumbai either. The city was given the new or Navi name after the formation of the Municipal Corporation)

Surveys were conducted in search of a suitable land mass and planners said the land across Thane Creek could be an ideal location. Thus was born CIDCO – The City and Industrial Development Corporation – to be the builder of New Bombay! The word Industrial is quite a misnomer since CIDCO developed only real estate property and hardly any industry!

The Revenue Department acquired acres after acres and handed them over to CIDCO. Vashi was chosen for development of the first node since it could turn out to be a natural extension of Chembur.

Not surprisingly, employees of RCF and BARC were among the first lots to be encouraged to form cooperative societies.

I must compliment CIDCO for planning every bit of life in Navi Mumbai – from green space to schools, banks, markets and above all transport. Not many people may know that we had BMTC (Bombay Metropolitan Transport Corporation) owned by CIDCO that was running buses within Navi Mumbai and also up to Dadar and Bandra on Mumbai side.

Those were the days when Vashi did not have cooking gas depot. Then CIDCO social services officer Dinkar Kausadikar took lead going from door to door enrolling people for gas connections and represented to HP to get the first gas depot.

What is life without social life? Considering that man is a social animal, Kausadikar and his team went about encouraging Vashiites to form linguistic groups and associations. The basic idea was to allow people preserve their multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic and religious culture while living in the cosmopolitan society that Navi Mumbai is!

That is the history behind all the associations that you see from Vashi bus depot to the mosque at Sector-9!

Vashi did not have its own police station and for any complaint, one had to go to Turbhe police station. A delegation led by journalist V K N Nair took the initiative and met Thane Police Commissioner Ramchandran who told them that Vashi did not have a fit case to justify police station since there wasn’t enough crime! “No rapes,  no murders and no burglaries! Why do you need a police station?”

After a prolonged discussion, the police granted an outpost for Vashi, to work under Turbhe police station.

As people began to settle down in their promised land at Vashi, crisis began to engulf them. First the BMTC had a series of strikes and rampant indiscipline with the entry of Datta Samant’s union. And Datta Samant was synonymous with strike!

Buses would stop at any place on the highway even during late nights as they would run out of diesel. None dared question the driver or conductor as to why they didn’t check before leaving the depot due to the sheer Dadagiri of the BMTC staff. Conductors would take money and not issue tickets, officers would take away bus seats to use them as their home furniture and so on.

Fed up with frequent unrest, CIDCO locked out BMTC leaving hundreds of buses to rot at the Turbhe depot.

Then came the chaos! One had to travel to Mumbai for job and not everyone had the luxury of company buses. Many of us travelled from Mankhurd like animals, crowding into trucks and tempos.

With the growing unrest and with the authorities not paying any attention, a delegation met BEST GM in Mumbai who asked the people again for justification sparking off a signature campaign.

Finally, BEST began running buses to Vashi under “Limited” route tariff.  Adi-Vashi fought in vain against the ‘Limited’ tariff plan which was and is higher than the normal fare. Are there limited stops between  Mankhurd and Vashi? There are no stops at all! The stop at octroi check-post is a request post.

But the fight was ultimately given up as buses were of top priority for us!

B N Kumar, journalist-turned PR professional and long-time resident of Navi Mumbai starts a new weekly column on life in Mumbai’s twin city.

B N Kumar

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