Mumbai at crossroads - a World Class city or a disaster?
When your car crawls on the Western Express Highway, know that the Highway Road is constructed by MSRDC, but not the bridges. The bridges are constructed by MMRDA. As you curse the potholes, know that the maintenance of these roads and bridges is the work of PWD and not of those agencies that constructed them.
Then as you turn right on the JVLR or SCLR road, you might like to know that these roads are made by MUTP consisting of the Govt of Maharashtra, Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation, Indian Railways, MMRDA, BMC, BEST and World Bank.
Going further, one turns left into a BMC road and still further into roads that might be constructed and maintained by Central Govt bodies like the Railways or the Airport Authority. So many agencies constructing and maintaining roads! Whew!!
Add corruption and poor monitoring to the multiplicity of authorities and one can easily understand the reasons for abysmal roads, traffic jams, pollutions and potholes every season.
This is just a small example of how Mumbai is managed! Even a fourth standard student will tell you that it is virtually impossible to manage anything with this multiple structure, let alone a global city of 16 million people. Reminds me of a joke about how a foreigner leaving Bihar said that he started believing in God because, who except God, could be running the state. Well, replace Bihar with Mumbai and the joke could have the same impact.
But it is not just God that is responsible for the reasonably smooth functioning of Mumbai, but its wonderful, compassionate, disciplined and resilient citizens, a well managed police force and an excellent bus and local train services. Mumbai continues to function till now, not because of its political system and politicians, but in spite of them.
This begs the question about why the state created parastatal bodies like MMRDA, MSRDC, PWD, SRA etc to take up major infrastructure projects in Mumbai when it should be BMC’s role to run the city? Why is BMC not maintaining all the roads?
Well, except for the last few months, historically, the State and Mumbai have had different parties running the government. Before the last Assembly elections, Cong-NCP used to run the State Govt and SS-BJP the Municipal Corporation. And as we all know, Mumbai is the cash cow where all the “BIG” projects and money is. So, the State politicians too want its hand in the pie!
In a series of weekly articles in English, Marathi and Hindi, I shall try and bring your focus on the structural flaws in government, quality of governance, flawed urban planning, Mumbai public transportation, how contracts are awarded, corruption by political and administrative class and other aspects of Mumbai and its mismanagement.
In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi had said that “Calcutta is dying”. It might be too premature to say the same for Mumbai, but we are heading for some serious trouble. In my articles, I shall try and offer solutions - political and administrative that can regain Mumbai to its rightful place as a world class city.
Now, let us take the map of Mumbai and with black, blue and red pens draw the boundaries of the MP, MLA and Corporator constituencies. Then take a green pen and draw the boundaries of the 23 Municipal Administrative wards beginning from 'A' Ward in Colaba to the ‘T’ Ward in Mulund. Now with another color draw the boundaries of each police station and with another color draw the boundaries of each Post office. You will be surprised to see that none of the boundaries coincide!
How can one possibly plan in this manner? How can there be inter- department coordination? What happens in emergencies?
A city of 16 million has just 23 Municipal administrative wards, some of them having over 50 sq km area and more than 7 lakh population. How can one office be able to handle the innumerable services that municipality delivers for such large areas and such a huge population? Even assuming that we had a 24x7 running, fully trained and manned staff with excellent systems (which is far from reality).No wonder, common Mumbaikars feel let down by the municipal services!
Lots need to change. Incremental changes will not be adequate. If Mumbai has to become a World Class city, some major decisions need to be taken and fast! A holistic and integrated approach is much needed.
I seek your support and inputs. A visionary approach is needed and it will come by various engagements with the people. Let us convert this into a dialogue that has the potential to draw a blueprint that will enhance the quality of life of Mumbaikars.
Mumbai can wait no more!!!