Mumbai: Hundreds of thousands of Mumbaikars suffer every day in the traffic chaos, not just during the morning and the evening rush hours, but also late in the night. Situation along the Western Express Highway (WEH) is especially nerve-jangling, considering the never-ending Metro work that results in the commute from South Mumbai to Borivali and beyond stretching up to three hours. No politician from any party, or officials from the government agencies bother about the plight of the common people.
Every now and then, however, when a celebrity gets a taste of what the common Mumbaikars suffer, all hell breaks loose. On Sunday night, actor Pratik Gandhi, who shot to limelight after his portrayal of stock broker Harshad Mehta in the web series Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, alleged misbehaviour from the police after he was stuck in traffic on the WEH. The traffic was halted as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to land in Mumbai to attend the Lata Mangeshkar Award event in Sion.
Gandhi took to Twitter, where he shared that he was “almost pushed” into a marble warehouse by the police when he decided to get down from his car on a jammed highway to report to shoot. “Mumbai WEH is jammed coz of 'VIP' movement, I started walking on the roads to reach the shoot location and Police caught me by shoulder and almost pushed me in some random marble warehouse to wait without any discussion. #humiliated,” the actor tweeted.
On Saturday, the city traffic police had alerted Mumbaikars about congestion on WEH due to VIP movement through a tweet. “Due to the VIP movement traffic may be slow on Western Express Highway at Santacruz towards Dharavi, Matunga between 3-9 PM on 24-04-2022. Mumbaikars are requested to avoid using this route and use alternative routes. #MTPTrafficUpdate,” the police tweeted.
Citizens, however, pointed out that every day of the week was a problem as far as WEH traffic was concerned. Santosh Dube, a resident of Thakur Village in Kandivali East, said that the drive from the Bandra-Worli Sea Link to Kandivali takes up to an hour-and-a-half due to traffic chaos, largely because of the Metro rail construction. “We have been suffering traffic jams as late as 1 am. There cannot be any excuse for this,” he said.
After Gandhi's tweet, scores of Mumbaikars replied to him on social media, slamming the traffic police and various government agencies for the mess. “Pratik, we live in a society where the common man foots the bill for VVIP and pays the price. The joke is on us,” one citizen said, while another added, “Even after 10 years the situation will remain the same in Mumbai.” Yet another person wrote, “This should really end! What a shame.. Sorry for you Pratik! Moral is power doesn't spare anyone.”
Don't blame us, say traffic cops
A senior officer from the Mumbai Traffic Police said that the cops have to follow the guidelines when it comes to all VIP movements on the roads. Regarding Pratik Gandhi's complaint of being humiliated by the police, he said, “The information shared in the tweet is incomplete. Not only the traffic police, but the local police are also part of the bandobast. The person (Gandhi) has not specified which police officer was involved (in the incident) and the location of the incident. As far as VIP movement is concerned, there are security norms that have to be followed. Whenever there is a VIP movement, traffic on both sides of the road is stopped for some time, which ends in about ten minutes and which may not exceed beyond 20 minutes.”
Regarding the persistent traffic congestion on WEH, the officer said, “At present, 33 infrastructure projects are going on there. There are two major issues and if these are addressed, the traffic scenario will improve vastly. Firstly, the projects are not completed within the stipulated time and the deadlines are always extended. These projects should be completed within time. Secondly, these projects are going on simultaneously. I suggest that only after completion of one project should the other start.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police, traffic (west), Nitin Pawar, told The FPJ that it was not proper to blame the traffic police only. “Other factors are also there which have to be considered,” he said.