In this ever-changing world, the newspaper has continued to be the most trusted medium. Readers rely on the written word and strongly believe in the power of newspapers, from changing governments to lighting up dark streets.
Hindustan Times has always been one of the most credible newspapers in India and has remained a newspaper for the people and of the people.
“Unclog Mumbai” was an initiative launched by HT with a mission to ease the traffic woes in India’s bustling commercial capital. Launched soon after adopting the new positioning “Let’s Make News Better” in 2013, this big-ticket campaign aimed at joining hands with readers to make a difference to the lives of Mumbaiites.
In March 2013, when the local transport department last counted, there were more than 2.2 million vehicles on Mumbai’s roads. Every day, 350 vehicles are added to that number. Consider also the fact that Mumbai has only 1,950 kilometres of roads for these vehicles. You don’t need to be a wizard to figure out why Mumbai’s congested roads are one of its worst nightmares.
However, it is neither only the number of vehicles nor the lack of road space. There are unregulated hawkers; flawed infrastructure; drivers who do not heed rules; pedestrians who flout whichever rule that comes their way; and a myriad other problems that disfigure our lives as commuters on this city’s streets.
Under the “Unclog Mumbai” campaign, HT put the lens on stretches in the city that are especially arduous to navigate. It investigated why they are so difficult. In conjunction with urban planners and experts, HT offered solutions, going to the authorities on readers’ behalf and seeking to have these solutions implemented.
How did we do it? Here’s the story:
- HT selected six congested areas in the island city and the eastern suburbs.
- We started a campaign to address the problems that affect these areas and suggest possible solutions.
- While each of the six stretches had issues that were unique to those areas, we also found issues that were common to all of them; for example, one common problem was the entry of heavy vehicles and goods carriers on busy stretches.
Less than six months later, “Unclog Mumbai” already started making an impact. A big impact.
At a recent earlier this year with HT editors, the traffic police admitted to the problem and said they have started taking action on this front.
“We had taken action against the entry of heavy vehicles during peak hours in Thane,” said Pratap Dighavkar, deputy commissioner of police (traffic). “Now, we are contemplating placing restrictions on smaller goods vehicles as well.”
Another common problem was porous road dividers, which allow motorists to make illegal turns. The civic body said they were ready to deal with the problem jointly with the traffic police.
The results have been heartening. Authorities handling traffic and infrastructure, together with HT, have come up with a series of measures to solve the city’s traffic problems.
On February 27, the Bombay high court acknowledged HT’s efforts in providing low-cost solutions to ease the traffic congestion in the city, and directed the police and the civic body to submit reports on the condition of roads by April 7, 2014.
“Hindustan Times is also running a template for solving the traffic problems,” the court observed in the course of a hearing. “Your officers should also read those newspapers.”