Lindsay Pereira: BMC: Citizens' bane, contractors' boon

From the shoddy state of our roads and bridges, it's clear that the civic body is much kinder to tainted contractors than Mumbai's citizens

Here's an interesting piece of information about the most efficient, least corrupt organisation in Bombay — the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. According to news reports earlier this week, India's most stellar civic body has awarded road contracts worth R227 crore to tainted contractors. If you haven't heard about this, you will probably figure it out on your own a month or so from now, while struggling to get home through muddy, waist-high water.

What this recent decision makes pretty obvious is that there are no qualified contractors in this massive city. Why else would those who have been blacklisted for doing the worst job in the history of bad jobs be awarded contracts again?

The newly opened flyover in Goregaon is uneven, bumpy and almost certainly accident-prone, but maybe we're too hard on the BMC and MMRDA. We only waited six years for one half of the Goregaon flyover. File pic
The newly opened flyover in Goregaon is uneven, bumpy and almost certainly accident-prone, but maybe we're too hard on the BMC and MMRDA. We only waited six years for one half of the Goregaon flyover. File pic

It's also pretty obvious that no one in the BMC or MMRDA (the second most efficient organisation in the country) will ever be able to give us decent roads, simply because no one in either establishment has a clue about what a good road should be like. This also explains why the newly opened flyover in Goregaon is uneven, bumpy and almost certainly accident-prone.

They say the roads will be fixed, of course, and they will. What they don't add is how the roads won't stay fixed, 24 hours after the first mild shower. Then again, it may be our fault. Maybe we're too hard on the BMC and MMRDA and haven't been patient enough. We only waited six years for one half of that flyover, for instance.

We could have given them a more reasonable amount of time, like 15 years, or 30. After all, dealing with encroachments alone usually takes a good decade or so. And, if there happens to be a religious structure in the way, moving that tends to add a few more decades, stretching the making of a half-decent road from 12 months to 12 years.

Maybe we also worry too much about good roads. Good roads are probably overrated anyway. Only a few hundred thousand people die on them annually, which isn't a number worth obsessing over when looking at the larger scheme of things. We also give the BMC and MMRDA only had a few decades to work on them, so how can we expect smooth, pothole-free stretches? Also, if they do dig up half decent roads to lay new pipelines a month before the monsoon, they probably have great reasons for it too. It makes perfect business sense for contractors, for instance, even if it seems senseless to everyone else in the city.

Here's another interesting piece of information related to our roads. Remember that road scam last year? You probably won't, because there appears to be a new one every week. To refresh your memory, this particular one was unearthed after an enquiry report submitted by a three-member committee, which led to FIRs being filed against six contractors and the suspension of two civic officials.

Now, some of those contractors have been given permission to repair and construct bridges and possibly a flyover. Should companies that can't build a road be allowed to build a bridge? It may seem like another stupid question to most of us, but the answer for the BMC or the MMRDA is a resounding 'Yes.' As pointed out earlier, they know something most of us do not.

If the work of blacklisted contractors won't make life difficult enough for you, the BMC always has a limitless supply of stupid decisions to accomplish that. This is why roads have been dug up across the city, some for the laying of pipes, others for repairing pipes that appear to have lasted just a few months, and still others seemingly for fun, because why should some of us suffer when all of us can? Again, the dug-up roads will supposedly be fixed by the end of May, but you and I both know the debris will lie there until our grandchildren arrive, making it hard for them to commute too.

We should all quit whatever it is we're doing and do our best to become contractors for the BMC. It's obviously the easiest job in the world: You can fail as often as you like, you are never held accountable for anything you do, you can dig up roads at random without filling out a completion date on the boards put up alongside, and you get to play with a budget that's larger than the GDP of a small country. If that's not exciting enough for you to consider a change of career, what is?

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereiraSend your feedback to

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