Encroachment of footpaths continues unabated in Pune despite appeals from city dwellers and social organisations.
The sheer magnitude of the issue still goes unnoticed by the authorities. It has now reached such proportions now that using a footpath or whatever is available has become a test of balance and gymnastic skill, say Punekars.
The problems are numerous. From unauthorised hawkers breaching boundaries, vehicles parking the entire breadth of the footpath to digging works in many areas have all rendered the footpath almost non-existent.
This has put many pedestrians, particularly senior citizens and children, in grave danger. With Pune’s famed traffic chaos on the roads, where drivers are not willing to give an inch, the poor pedestrian has nowhere to go.
Every step becomes a death trap as impatient drivers even climb footpaths to get ahead during rush hour. Many footpaths too are broken at some points which pose further hurdles.
“Pune is listed for becoming a Smart City. How can we become one?” asks Nishi Mehra, 60, a retired schoolteacher residing in Kondhwa.
“I shudder every time I go walking. I have seen rash two-wheeler riders coming straight at me without a care and wanting me to hop aside. But where do I move to? There is nothing there. What was once a footpath is now a parking lot for vehicles.
“Walking around my area is a nightmare. Nobody wants to wait and nobody cares,” she adds.
Mohan Dhawle, 67, a shopkeeper by profession, is very angry with the non-action from the authorities.
“Pune is becoming a huge death trap for its citizens. No effort has been made to develop roads. The traffic is uncontrollable, rules are broken every day, and death waits at every corner.
“Footpaths have become a thing of the past. Whatever is left is only meant for parking purposes or hawking. When will our traffic department and municipality wake up to the fact that pedestrians are an important part of commuting?” he adds.
Housewife Snehal Joshi, 32, is very frustrated with the lack of footpath, particularly when she goes to pick up her kids from the school bus stop.
“I stay near Salunke Vihar. I have to make my kids walk on the road every day. The footpath is encroached by stalls and cars and two-wheelers block the path by not leaving enough space to walk.
“I fear for my kids every day as there are maniacs on the road who care for nobody. A big disaster is waiting to happen. But nobody cares,” she asserts angrily.
“Now that the elections are near, I may see some action on my repeated pleas to the authorities to rectify the almost non-existent footpath near my house in Somwar Peth,” says Mohsin Furniturewala, 43, a trader.
“Over the last two years, I have tried every avenue to rectify the situation. All I get in return is a load of false promises and assurances. I am totally fed up.”
Rajiv Bhonsle, 54, a sales executive, is astounded by the sheer negligence and apathy towards citizens’ problems.
“The newspapers are full of complaints about bad roads, garbage pile-ups and destroyed footpaths in the citizen’s forums. Yet there is no action at all.
Proper public amenities are a must if Pune is aiming to become a Smart City.
“I don’t think this will happen in my lifetime, looking at the way things are going,” he adds.
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