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Rajdeep Sardesai expresses pity for local train commuters in Mumbai: Read how he hailed ‘Save Aarey’ that stalled the Metro project meant to ease congestion

While Sardesai’s latest posts on social media highlight the newfound sympathy he has for the common commuters, they also bring forward the persistent urban hypocrisy. The rich and the elite can cite nostalgia and express myopic views to thwart intelligent city planning, but the price is usually paid by the poor and the underprivileged who have to put up with the privileged residents' high moral values while navigating through their daily hardships.

The urban landscape of Mumbai is a canvas of paradoxes. Every day, the whims of elites clash with the needs of the common man. While the elites enjoy “swift” rides across smooth roads, the not-so-rich spend hours struggling to reach their destinations on local trains. Often termed the “Mumbai spirit”, videos of commuters getting crushed in a sea of “Mumbaikars” surface on social media. Amidst all this, the hope and desire to get a better way to commute, Mumbai Metro, is yet to bring relief to the common man on a burning Wednesday. On the other hand, “elite” Lutyens Journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai and other celebrities indulge in flip-flops over whom to support, development or made-up environmental causes.

On 22nd May 2024, Sardesai posted on X (formerly Twitter) about his swift journey from Worli to Nariman Point on Mumbai’s coastal road. He hailed it as a “game changer for Mumbai car traffic”. He is not wrong. The road is smooth like butter. The ease with which he travelled from one point to another on the coastal road is in stark contrast with the struggles millions face daily on Mumbai’s overcrowded local trains.

On the same day, Rajdeep Sardesai made another post painting a vivid picture of the common commuters cramped in buses and walking miles in the summer heat for a glimpse of political leaders. The picture painted by him was expected as the Lok Sabha Elections 2024 are ongoing. He emphasises the dire state of education and health services available for rural India. He urged for a “Viksit Bharat” that is dependent on services rather than catchy slogans. He made a call for better infrastructure for the common man as well.

While Sardesai’s post on X might have made him look like a caring man who thinks about the common, poor, marginalised and needy people of India, in reality, he is among those journalists, activists and celebrities who supported the Aarey Forest protests that stalled a crucial metro project in Mumbai.

In October 2020, Rajdeep Sardesai lauded then-state minister Aaditya Thackeray for “saving” the Aarey Forest. The step taken by the then-Maharatra government led by the Maha Vikas Agaadi (MVA) alliance was celebrated by environmentalists and elite Mumbaikars. For those who are unfamiliar with the controversy, the Aarey Metro project was intended to create a metro car shed as part of the Mumbai Metro project. It would have improved the public transportation system in the city.

However, it met environmental protests led by the well-off residents of the city and the project was halted. They argued that Aarey was the “green lungs” of the city. The decision taken by the then-government to find another place for the metro shed deprived millions of Mumbaikars of a more efficient and less congested commuting option.

If we look at the reports from that time, it is clear that the Aarey protests were no less than a vendetta against the Metro project as it would have resulted in falling off very few trees. Comparing it to the film city present in the same forest area, the damaging effect of the latter is much more on the environment. However, the protesters created an atmosphere against the Aarey Metro Shed Project.

The hypocrisy of Rajdeep Sardesai is glaring. While he and his elite peers have the liberty to enjoy luxurious car rides on newly built buttery roads, the average Mumbaikar continues to become the victim of the mythic “spirit of Mumbai”.

It raises a critical question. Whose interests are being served by halting such projects. The elites often participate in protests to preserve their egos and nostalgic memories. They do not care about the immediate and practical needs of the working population of the cities. The metro project is not just about cutting travel time. It is about providing a better, more efficient and dignified way to commute. However, Mumbaikars often have limited choices. The overcrowded city, burdened local train system and unimaginable traffic across the city, do not make life easier.

It would not be wrong to say that the “spirit of Mumbai” is a curse rather than a boon. While Sardesai’s latest posts on social media highlight the newfound sympathy he has for the common commuters, they also bring forward the persistent urban hypocrisy. The elites can influence city planning in their favour. The common man cannot wake up and fix things on a ‘Wednesday’… It is high time that urban development in Mumbai prioritises the needs of the broader populace over the nostalgic and sometimes myopic views of the privileged residents.

One can only hope just like supporting the protests against Aarey Metro Car Shed, Sardesai would not come in support of the protests that are scheduled to be launched to save the “Slum of Dharavi” in the coming months. One can only hope that the elites of Mumbai do not promote the disgusting “slum tourism” of Dharavi as a focal point of the city and let the largest slum vanish from the face of the earth forever.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Anurag
Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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