Kanjurmarg is a suburb in east central Mumbai. Kanjurmarg railway station is the nearest railway station to Powai. Kanjurmarg West is the main access point for IIT Bombay (4-5 minutes away), Hiranandani gardens (8-10 minutes away), Powai Vihar (about 12 minutes away), NITIE (15-18 minutes away) and Chandivali (16-20 minutes away). It lies on the Central railway line between Bhandup and Vikhroli. The proximity of Kanjurmarg to Powai makes it very convenient for residents of Powai to travel to distant places. It also makes it easy for non-residents to visit Powai for work, study and recreational activities.

Despite all the advantages of having a railway station nearby, people still claim that they don’t like travelling by train. You would wonder it is because of the crowd. But no. It is because of the poorly maintained traffic and the pathetic condition of the area immediately outside the railway station.

Kanjurmarg railway station is an entangled mess of traffic and potholes, and it keeps deteriorating every passing day. It is possibly one of the dirtiest stations on the central line. The road leading to the station is full of potholes, which are usually filled with dirty water even during non-monsoon seasons.

Water puddle even during non-rainy season. Image by Neil D’Costa.

Autonomous auto-rickshaws

One can see auto-rickshaws all over the place, parked in a disorderly manner and never in a straight line. These are mostly share autos that are only willing to leave the station when they have a full quota of three passengers seated inside. You can hear them shout out the destinations that they wish to take you, that too at their price. This often leads to competition among the auto-rickshaw drivers and quarrels between the rickshaw drivers and the passengers. The noise levels are often irritable.

Because there is no distinct division of the lane, the u-turning of autos results in a commotion for other vehicles as well as for pedestrians. There is a barricade beyond which the auto-rickshaws cannot pass, about 50 metres from the station. This was supposed to prevent crowding of vehicles right outside the station. On the contrary, it has led to increased crowding of auto-rickshaws near the barricade itself.

Lack of availability of auto-rickshaws during peak hours is another unassociated problem. The resulting flocking of people in search of public transport leads to further traffic congestion outside the station. Ironically, you will find many empty rickshaws during non-peak hours, desperately waiting for passengers to come! These are, again, share autos. If you want to travel alone peacefully, you will probably have to wait for a really long time. This is because the line for meter based auto-rickshaws is empty 80 percent of the times.

Where do I walk?

There is neither a footpath nor a separate lane to walk, forcing the pedestrians to walk on the road itself. Pedestrians have to avoid auto-rickshaws, potholes and other people while walking on that packed, crater-rich road. Walking toward the station makes you seems like you are participating in “Takeshi’s Castle”. In short, the road outside the station is not only in a bad state but also there is hardly any place to walk on it.

The situation gets worse during the monsoons. The road is now full of water puddles and wet mud. The reckless auto-rickshaw drivers just splash the soiled water after bumping into a puddle, without a slight consideration that there might be someone walking on the side (or on the road, since there is no defined “side” where people can walk). If it’s raining be sure get wet and to get hit by an umbrella at least a couple of times. When it rains every pedestrian will have to dodge his or her umbrella to avoid the umbrellas from colliding with another person or with an auto-rickshaw. You just can’t reach the platform with clean footwear and tidy clothes. Wearing light footwear like slippers is always a bad idea, whether it is raining or not.

Main road, same traffic problem

Casual violation of the traffic signal on the main road (LBS Marg), from where we take a turn towards the station, makes the traffic problem more severe. In spite of having a well functional traffic signal, vehicles tend to block the road every now and then. Most of the time there is no traffic policeman present to guide these vehicles (and penalize them if necessary). Even if there is one, he is often ineffective. The ongoing metro construction is also responsible for making matters worse. The metro work has literally reduced the main road to half its size. Hopefully, it will serve its purpose and improve the traffic conditions in the future.

‘Use me’

If you visit Kanjurmarg station you’ll find 4-5 huge uncovered garbage bins placed right next to the entrance. There is also a small, open drain on the other side of the entrance stairway. You don’t even feel like entering the station because of the foul smell. Moreover, sometimes the garbage is scattered outside the bins which makes this even more disgusting. As the waste is exposed to the open, it may lead to spread of serious diseases. This may also contaminate the food that is available in the nearby stalls and eateries. This is hazardous as many people like to have a bite while walking to the station and waiting for the train. Occasionally, you will also see a dump truck, taking its own time to collect the waste from those bins. This truck partially blocks the entrance and adds to the foul smell while doing so.

Garbage overflowing from dustbins

Dirty surroundings, clean platform

The platforms on the station are in a much better condition. They are clean and tidy, thanks to the renovation of the station that was done in 2016. The presence of a couple of stray dogs on the platform can make it difficult for some of the passengers. However there is very little that can be done about it. The footbridge is cleaner than the ones at many other stations, and there is an escalator too. In fact, you are relieved after stepping on the platform, after crossing all the filth that is right outside. The descriptive phrase “dirtiest station” does not include the platform. We must certainly congratulate and appreciate the civic authorities for doing such an amazing job on that part.

Dirty Surroundings, Clean platform
Dirty surroundings, clean platform

Possible Steps

With all the problems listed, here are some possible steps that we can take as citizens. We must alert the authorities in charge about the existing trouble that all passengers face because of the filth outside. We must press these authorities to take proper measures to improve the condition of the station.

There needs to be a separate lane for pedestrians. A smooth, well-maintained road with proper divisions for the vehicles that enter and exit the station is a requirement now. The drain and the garbage bins need to be covered. This will help avoid the foul smell and prevent proliferation of serious disease causing agents. Manually covering the potholes would be a great short term solution; whereas repair and reconstruction of the road can be expected in the long term. If we can collectively convince the authorities that the betterment of the station is a priority, then they will surely do a good job with it, as they have done in the past.

Finally, if there is somebody who can do something about the problems caused by auto-rickshaws (we can’t even do away with them because they are a necessity), the city needs you!