As thousands of Anna supporters converge at MMRDA ground, BKC, authorities don't seem to have any clear idea on how to tackle the situation. Will their wait-and-watch policy work?
Only hours remain for anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare to flag off the Mumbai chapter of his peaceful agitation for a strong Lokpal bill. But the gift of hindsight (remember Ramlila grounds?) and the fact that the drama will unfold at the MMRDA grounds -- set in the heart of the commercial hub at Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) -- should be enough for you to brace yourself for turbulent times.
Goodbye and good luck: A supporter wishes Anna the best as he
leaves for Mumbai from Ralegan Siddhi yesterday. Pic/ Vishal Yadav
MiD DAY's investigation to gauge the city's preparedness for the disorderly days that will ensue left the paper reeling. It appears that almost all the public bodies -- the BMC, the Mumbai police, the traffic police, the MMRDA -- are clueless about what lies in store, and how to tackle Hurricane Hazare.
Asked about their plans to control traffic over the next few days, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Brijesh Singh said, "It is difficult for us to gauge the estimated number of vehicles that will be coming to Bandra Kurla Complex in course of the protest. Around 200 traffic police personnel will be deployed at Bandra and BKC during Anna's fast. Traffic snarls are expected on the Western Express Highway, as the protest will be held on working days."
Asked how he planned to deal with the massive traffic, this is what he offered, "We will deal with the traffic depending on the situation."
Things appeared equally vague at the Central Railway's bastion, with PC Sinha, the senior divisional security commissioner, also reposing faith in the power of improvisation. "We cannot anticipate the number of supporters that will be flocking the stations. We will take measures depending on the situation, as it unfolds tomorrow. We will be despatching more staff members to the Kurla station."
MiD DAY then spoke to R Rupanwar, the senior divisional security commissioner (Mumbai) for the Western Railway, to find out what plans the body has to channelise the tide of passengers that the trains are likely to be inundated with. He too seemed to favour the wait-and-watch approach. "We will take adequate measures depending on the demands of the situation. Our main objective is to ensure the smooth dispersal of passengers and Anna supporters from Bandra station. Abound 20 RPF men will be deployed at the station, apart from a couple of senior inspectors."
MiD DAY's hope that the BEST undertaking had some pre-emptive measures up its sleeve proved to be misplaced as well. No extra bus services to and from BKC have been announced to ease the way for supporters or regulars who will have to weather the crowds to reach their offices. Committee Chairman S Shinde said, "We will be running normal services. We will only despatch additional buses if we feel the need to."
And what about the towering stalwart himself, the central protagonist of this protracted drama? The septuagenarian has been under the weather. Manish Sisodiya, Team Anna member, said, "Anna's health isn't well. But he doesn't listen to anyone. If his ailing health doesn't improve, we will try and convince him not to fast."
Law and order
Keeping in mind the sea of humanity that had descended upon the Ramlila grounds in August when Anna held his 288-hour-long fast, cops would be expected to anticipate an upsurge of fellow protestors at the BKC address this time, and do some mental math to arrive at the number of footfalls. But when MiD DAY approached Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Rajnish Seth, he said, "You will have to ask the organisers about the number of people expected to flock to the MMRDA grounds. We have made security arrangements as per the capacity of the ground."
Advocate Kokila Kalra, who practises at the family court located at BKC said, "Approximately 70 cases are heard daily in each of the seven courts. Around 500 litigants visit the courts daily. I am concerned that the protest will affect our court proceedings."
Prateek Patel, a 26-year-old corporate employee who commutes to his office in BKC every day, said, "We have been asked to leave work after lunch today."
What about sanitation at the public loos put up to provide relief to Hazare's supporters? An MMRDA official appeared in the dark, saying, "The mobile toilets are only practical for an event that has limited attendance and participation. But the turnout at MMRDA grounds is expected to touch 50,000. And mobile toilets will fall far short of requirements. They are sure to become filthy, unhygienic and smelly if so many people use them."
Expecting BMC to look after cleanliness at the venue? Assistant Municipal Commissioner of H-East Ward, M Pimplale, said, "Our garbage collecting vehicles will only make their routine rounds, so the management has to take the onus of maintaining cleanliness at the venue."
3.00 pm: Leaves Ralegan Siddhi for Mumbai via Alandi around Pune in a jeep
9.30 pm: Reaches government guesthouse in Bandra, reposes.
9.00 am: Arrives at Juhu Beach to pay homage to Gandhi statue.
9.30 am: After offering prayers at the statue, he embarks on a bike rally up to the fast venue, MMRDA grounds, BKC. The rally is expected to have nearly 200 bikers at the outset. As it proceeds, more volunteers and supporters are expected to join in.
Bike rally route: Juhu-Mithibai College-Nanavati Hospital-Asha Parekh Hospital-Khar Library-Bandra Masjid-Bandra Flyover-BKC
11.00 am: Rally concludes at MMRDA grounds. Hazare takes the stage and delivers the inaugural speech to the supporters present on the ground. The speech marks the opening of the 3-day fast agitation.
Noon and thereafter:
The daylong event will be marked by performances for the audience, and speeches by Team Anna members, including those belonging to NGO India Against Corruption.
The fast continues for the next two days and is set to conclude on December 29.
On December 30, the activist has called for a 'Jail Bharo' agitation.
>> Team Anna member Manish Sisodia says whether or not Anna will fast will depend on his health
>> Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Brijesh Singh unsure how to deal with potential traffic jams
>> Auto unions unsure about meeting demand at railway stations
>> BEST has no immediate plans to deploy more buses
>> Senior divisional security commissioner, WR, unsure of turnout at railway stations
>>Corporates unsure about managing full day's work
Law and Order
>> Joint Commissioner of Police unsure about crowd turnout. Security arrangements planned according to ground, not by expected turnout
>> MMRDA unsure if toilet facilities will be enough for the thousands of people