With monsoons around the corner, Mid Day is running a sustained campaign in Mumbai to force authorities to get the worst of the roads back in shape before rains strike the metro. Mid Day is also in talks with the concerned authorities to understand the guidelines of accessing a bad road and identifying the roads in Mumbai that need urgent repair. The tabloid newspaper has also issued a helpline number where Mumbaikars can call up and show their active involvement in the campaign.
When asked about the idea behind launching this campaign, Sachin Kalbag, Editor, Mid Day, said, “Mumbai is one of the world’s premier cities, yet it has some of the world’s worst-maintained urban roads. This is a consequence of massive corruption, apathy and a total disregard for the welfare of the tax-paying citizens of the megapolis. Mumbai’s Municipal Corporation’s budget for building and maintenance of roads is humongous and runs into hundreds of crores every year, yet Mumbai’s roads continue to be in the pathetic condition they are at present.”
A team from Mid Day has shortlisted the 12 worst roads in the city. Speaking on the editorial challenges of the campaign, Kalbag explained, “For a city as large as Mumbai, with a road network that stretches into hundreds of kilometers, the first job was to identify the bad roads. We fanned out 12 reporters and six photographers across the city for more than 10 days and got the results verified from an independent consultant, who rated the roads on a scale of one to five.”
Also, the newspaper reporters measured the sizes of potholes, counted the number of potholes on the affected roads, spoke to the municipal engineer responsible for the maintenance of the road and then spoke to the additional municipal commissioner, the top boss when it comes to road maintenance in the city. “The result was a three-page spread detailing the flaws in each of the 12 roads. It turned out to be one of the newspaper’s most successful campaigns given the feedback that we received, and are still receiving,” Kalbag said.
Going ahead, for each of the roads the newspaper writes about, reporters go back each day to follow up with the Municipal Corporation on the status of the road repair work.
Kalbag believes that when newspapers take up issues that matter to their communities, word of mouth helps in reaching out to more and more readers. This way, new readers could be added both in the short and long term.
The ‘Return Our Roads’ campaign began in April and will continue for at least two months (even up to three months). “The timing of the campaign is such that the municipal authorities have enough time and no excuses to get the roads in shape before the fury of the monsoon hits the city in June,” concluded Kalbag.