By QUAID NAJMI
Mumbai, Aug 2 (IANS) In a national first, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has just made pedestrian signals on a Mumbai road gender-equal — and the move has proved to be a veritable traffic-stopper.
As part of an unique project, two pedestrian signals on the Swatantra Veer Savarkar (SVS) Road from Siddhivinayak Temple to Mahim have inducted female characters — both in the standing and walking modes — signalling a huge step towards achieving an attitude of gender equality.
The BMC and Mumbai Traffic Police seem quite pleased with the response at the Shivaji Park traffic junction — another novel initiative after they had introduced the policy of ‘Honk More, Wait More’ at some heavy-traffic signals or traffic junctions in Mumbai in January 2020.
“It was suggested by some urban planners and we decided to implement it after getting the ‘okay’ from Mumbai Traffic Police in June. It is neither time-consuming nor expensive and we have decided to change the pedestrian signages on all 240 signals at 18 junctions to depict male-female characters,” Assistant Municipal Commissioner (G/North Ward) Kiran Dighavkar told IANS.
The first phase of the project — estimated to cost barely Rs 50,000 — involves changing the stencil figures on the signal glass, and has proved to be a refreshing change for the pedestrians patiently awaiting their turn to cross the roads.
Dighavkar says this would not only help spur gender equality, but also reduce the daily subconscious bias or discrimination with the pedestrian signals becoming ‘gender-equal’.
With the Shivaji Park signal junction sporting the new female signages, over the next few days, all the blinkers on the SVS shall be changed to junk female discrimination.
The ‘blinking’ red-green female signages even caught the eye of Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray, who promptly signalled his impressions in a tweet.
“If you’ve passed by Dadar, you’d see something that will make you feel proud. The BMC-Ward G/N is ensuring gender equality with a simple idea – the signals now have women too!”
He also generously credited Mumbai’s female Mayor Kishori Pednekar, BMC House Leader Vishakha Raut, BMC Commissioner I.S. Chahal, G-North Ward chief Dighavkar, local MLA Sada Sarvankar for the project.
“This is a small step for Mumbai, but a giant step towards gender equality for Mumbaikars… It has been implemented at 2 signals, now, I don’t see why not all over Mumbai,” BMC House Leader Vishakha Raut told IANS.
One of the key thoroughfares in the city, the 4.5 kms long Swatantra Veer Savarkar Road has major attractions like the Siddhivinayak Temple, Mahim Dargah, St. Michael’s Church, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Memorial and Chaityabhoomi, the cradle of Indian cricket Shivaji Park, and the upcoming national memorial to Shiv Sena founder-patriarch, the late Balasaheb Thackeray among others.
Though Mumbai becomes the first city in India to implement this, it’s been there since nearly two decades in several cities worldwide.
For instance, Amersfoort city in The Netherlands which introduced its iconic pony-tailed female traffic light figure ‘Sofie’ in 2000, and later she moved to other cities.
Several cities in Germany like Dresden, Cologne, Zwickau, Geneva in Switzerland, Vienna and Linz in Austria, and Australia’s Melbourne city followed suit on International Women’s Day 2017.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])