Lindsay Pereira: Don't you have faith in the BMC?
Thousands of crores have been spent on fixing Bombay's roads. We can't ask the officials where all that money has gone though
What appears to have upset members of the BMC is an RJ mocking the state of our roads in a video
I have yet to meet a resident of Bombay who respects the BMC. I have genuinely tried. I asked family members and friends, relatives and neighbours, even the odd rickshaw driver and cabbie. None of them had any respect for the organisation. What they did have is scorn, anger and derision. No one in the BMC appears to understand this though. This is the only possible reason why one of its employees recently announced his intention of filing a Rs 500-crore defamation suit against a radio jockey, simply because she had dared to mock the state of our roads.
The BMC needs to understand that defamation is possible only when an organisation has any character worth speaking of. Maybe it did once, a long time ago before it was taken over by what many perceive to be common thieves, but it no longer deserves any respect whatsoever. It takes the citizens of Bombay for granted year after year, lies about everything under the sun, makes promises it has no intention of ever keeping, and then has the audacity to threaten residents for daring to ask it some tough questions. A corporator even went to the extent of trying to create a parody video of her own, couching an open threat under the guise of some inane lyrics. It is this boorish behaviour that makes the BMC come across as a bigger joke than it always has been.
What appears to have upset members of the organisation is a video about the state of our roads. There's no point discussing them now because, as this column has noted time and again, one can simply step outside - irrespective of where in the city one lives - and find a mess where a simple paved street ought to be. Senior citizens fail to cross these streets, pregnant women risk their lives and the lives of their unborn babies, healthy young men have been thrown off motorcycles to their deaths, while the organisation that collects our taxes shrugs its shoulders, blames other organisations and checks balconies for malaria-breeding mosquitoes.
A little over a year ago, reports mentioned how the BMC had spent approximately R11,000 crore on roads over the previous five years. Apparently, it had a budgetary provision of R14,500 crore for repair and reconstruction between 2011 and 2016, and ended up with a further R5,183 crore in its budget for 2016-17. In addition to this, it declared that R2,000 crore would be spent on repairing more than 1,000 roads.
This is staggering amount of money by any stretch of the imagination. It is an amount that disappears every year the minute the rains roll in. Engineers have been named and shamed, dubious firms have been listed and blacklisted, hot and cold mixes have been made here and imported from abroad, all to no avail. It's as if we are stuck with a bunch of people who simply have no interest in ever giving us a single decent road, because doing so will result in a loss of personal earnings for a select few.
Here's an interesting piece of information to consider: The Bombay-Pune Expressway, an impressive 94-kilometre stretch that passes through some of Maharashtra's most difficult terrain, was built at a reported cost of R1,600 crore. It sees traffic of over 40,000 vehicles daily, but still manages to be smooth for much of the way, at least until the minute one enters Bombay. If a stretch of that size can manage with that kind of traffic, why can't small streets deal with one-tenth the number of vehicles? Why do potholes and loose paver blocks - long identified as a failure, and long upheld by the BMC as a perfect solution in the face of evidence to the contrary - continue to make all streets here a hazard for those compelled to use them?
The BMC struggles, and fails, to run anything under its ambit with any degree of efficiency. It fails on healthcare, education, and just about anything else one cares to examine a little more closely, despite collecting the kind of taxes that could run a small country in the hands of people with more integrity and intelligence. It wilfully refuses to recognise its shortcomings, choosing to threaten the people it is supposed to work for instead.
When a radio jockey asks, 'Don't you have faith in the BMC?' it isn't just her backing vocalists who shout out a reply. Millions of us shake our heads vehemently in response. We don't.
When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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