Lindsay Pereira: All those promises down the drain

Feb 11, 2017, 08:44 IST | Lindsay Pereira

Pothole-free roads are promised by parties before every BMC elections. File pic
Pothole-free roads are promised by parties before every BMC elections. File pic

Hindmata is an interesting place to visit. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to do so yet (it lies between Parel and Dadar TT), I strongly recommend you consider it around a week after the monsoons arrive. That is when it shines. You can see how streams of running water inundate its pothole-ridden streets, how talented motori­sts perform death-defying stunts to avoid falling under the wheels of buses, and how residents go shopping in knee-deep water.

They do this every year and, des­pite the fact that our extremely hard-working BMC employees have been promising things will change, I’m willing to bet a large number of those ghastly new R2,000 notes that nothing will change.
The reason for this chaos is, naturally, the BMC itself. Apparently, its highly-qualified engineers broke open storm water drains to lay the foundation of a flyover, making the area prone to flooding in the process. When did this happen, you ask? Around two decades ago.

A few days ago, the extremely efficient people running the BMC promised to sort the flooding issue again. They promised this a few weeks before the last election too, of course, as well as the one before it. They also promised pothole-free roads (which they didn’t even come close to giving us), separate toilets for women (presumably because they have managed to give men astonishingly clean toilets over the past two decades), and separate dispensaries for women. If you spot a separate dispensary for women in your neighbourhood, please email its address to friends and family because no one in this city knows what these mysterious places look like.

The honourable men and women supposedly running the BMC have said, once again, that we all have the ‘right to pee’. They say this because none of them have ever tried to pee in any of the public toilets dotted few and far between our dustbin-like city. They say this because none of them have ever stepped outside their taxpayer-funded, air-conditioned rooms to look at how the citizens of Mumbai commute on a daily basis.

They talk about mobile applications to help us keep them informed about potholes and the like, but when was the last time you tried using one of these much-publicised apps anyway? Even a visit to the official BMC website is an embarrassment. It’s the sort of site only someone with an IQ of 9 and a working knowledge of HTML and the Internet would put together. And it’s the online presence of India’s richest municipal corporation. But don’t believe me. Visit the site for yourself or, better still, good luck using the pothole-tracking app.

They talk about sewage treatment plants. In 1985, they came up with a drainage system that, they said, would ensure Mumbai never witnessed floods again. Nothing was done about the plan, obviously, until our city went under in 2005. By that point, the initial cost of R6 billion had magically jumped to Rs 12 billion. To put things into perspective, you can buy the Solomon Islands 12 times over with that kind of money, but the honourable men and women of the BMC have still failed to sort out the drainage system. Naturally, it’s one of their promises during the upcoming polls too. Other promises include lower property taxes, concessions to housing societies using water harvesting and a bunch of inane things that make no sense in a city where infrastructure is crumbling and where any visit to a government-run organisation continues to be stressful and unnecessarily mired in red tape. Focus on education crops up too, despite the fact that thousands of students continue to abandon BMC-run schools every year, not because they don’t want to be educated, but because the schools are abysmal.

Maybe parties running for the BMC should stop putting out manifestos. Nobody reads them anyway, least of all the people who write them. Maybe they should stop wasting our money on hoardings telling us about what they intend to do, and surprise us by actually doing something. Maybe they should ignore all promises and once, just once, try and give us a pothole-free experience when the rains arrive.

And maybe the people of Hindmata should, for the first time in their lives, try to get out of their homes and walk sans fear of cala­mities. They deserve this because it is their fundamental right, despite decades of apathy from the people elected by them who have compelled them to forget it.

When he isn’t ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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