Lindsay Pereira Column: BMC: A study in selflessness

With study trips to Amsterdam, Turkey, BMC staffers sure seem eager to learn for Mumbai’s benefit

Lindsay PereiraThe people who work hardest in our city are corporators of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Doctors and teachers do nothing of importance when compared to what these hard-working BMC men and women do. Before you scoff and throw aside this column for something worse, like a novel by Amish Tripathi, allow me to explain: It isn’t easy going halfway across the world every other month in order to study something extremely important, then travelling back with all that information and attempting to replicate it here. But that is exactly what our corporators do: They make enormous sacrifices for us all.

Just earlier this month, for instance, BMC leaders planned an elaborate tour to Amsterdam, to study that city’s water supply, solid waste management and other development projects, just so they could bring back all that learning with them and change our lives in the process at some point in the fairly distant future. When was the last time your doctor or teacher did something so selfless?

Going places? Earlier this year, group leaders in the BMC visited Turkey for four days, to study the bus rapid transit system there, but last evening, buses were still struggling to move past Andheri station for hours. file pic for representation

It’s hard work, travelling across Europe on money that doesn’t belong to you. You have to swallow your pride, be completely shameless and plough through by reminding yourself constantly that you are in Europe because the people of Bombay need you to be. It’s harder when you have to try and replicate a project from a city that has universal access to water supply and sanitation. In fact, the drinking water network in Amsterdam is in such good shape that treated water does not need to be chlorinated. Imagine trying to implement that level of expertise in a city that hasn’t mastered the art of providing residents with running water yet.

That ‘study trip’ would undoubtedly have been good for us all. Unfortunately, it was called off earlier this month. Apparently, our corporators were so busy studying for what they had to say they were going to study on the study tour that they forgot to take into account the fact that temperatures in Amsterdam plummet in December. They are therefore — and very luckily for us all — going on another study tour to the Andamans instead.

There have been many, many study tours before this, of course, all of which have obviously helped turn our city into something any European, American or Japanese city can only aspire to. Apparently, an Improvement Committee recently went on a trip to Jammu and Kashmir, to replicate the fantastic conditions enjoyed by residents there in our city. Their tour reportedly included a darshan at the Vaishnodevi temple, a shikara across the Dal Lake and a cable car ride to Gulmarg. As a cynic, I assumed this sounded more like a location scouting trip for a Yash Raj film, but what do I know? I’m not a highly educated, extremely qualified corporator at the BMC. I have been looking for signs of improvement here since their return though, and urge you to try and spot an improvement or two if you can, too.

Earlier this year, group leaders in the BMC visited Turkey for four days, to study the bus rapid transit system and solid waste management projects there. It must have been a lot to take in over four days. They must have stayed up nights, taking notes and photographs, drawing up complicated diagrams, setting up meetings with everyone in that country to come over and make sure everything worked here in exactly the same way. I’m assuming the meetings haven’t happened yet though, because buses were still struggling to move past Andheri station for hours last evening, while solid waste management has been a problem in this city since before the day my father was born. Still, it was a study tour. There must have been some studying; there will, presumably, be some learning and implementation too.

Education committee members — yes, there is an education committee, despite the complete lack of signs anywhere — are reportedly planning another study tour to Dehradun soon, while members of the health committee — yes, surprisingly, there is one too — want to visit Sikkim to study something there. This is clearly a large group of people obsessed with studying places constantly.

I have been taught a valuable lesson, simply by tracking these study tours and taking notes. If you choose to have a child, gentle reader, do not encourage him or her to waste time trying to become a doctor, engineer or lawyer. Encourage your child to become someone whose life will revolve around learning. Encourage your child to become a BMC corporator.

When he isn’t ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira

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