Lindsay Pereira: Monsoon is back and it's choking

Jun 10, 2017, 06:04 IST | Lindsay Pereira

In the past 10 years, the BMC has spent over R40,000 crore on the creation of infrastructure in Mumbai. file PIC
In the past 10 years, the BMC has spent over R40,000 crore on the creation of infrastructure in Mumbai. file Pic

An additional municipal commissioner of the BMC had something very interesting to say to the press this week. "We are taking all necessary precautions before and during the monsoon," he reportedly said. "293 waterlogging spots have been reduced to 219." Think about this for a minute, while you stare outside your window and consider the onset of the monsoon with those mixed feelings of relief and dread shared by every resident of this city. Think about what this man - who has been hired by one of the most incompetent organisations you will ever have the misfortune of dealing with - has to say about what his team has managed to accomplish over a period of one year: Reducing 74 waterlogging spots.

Let's put aside what a waterlogging spot is, and who decides what is and isn't one. Let's put aside the fact that your locality and mine will turn into a swimming pool anyway, irrespective of whether it will find itself on this list of waterlogging spots. Concentrate instead on the sheer audacity of the statement that allows someone who gets paid with our taxes to openly declare incompetence without fear of any repercussions. What does it say about an organisation that continues to fail, year after year, but only gets a larger budget to play with nonetheless?

Here's another interesting thing that happened this week. Apparently, when an RTI activist sought reports of the organisation's second phase of inquiry into shoddy road repair work, the request was passed from one office to another until a BMC representative allegedly refused to comply. The excuse given was that the information sought was personal and had nothing to do with public interest. In other words, trying to figure out what the BMC does with our money is none of our business. We are supposed to pay our taxes quietly and struggle with the shoddy work given in return without making a fuss.

If you have been living under a rock, here's an update on the road scam that has been playing out in public for a while now. The BMC first found that work on 34 roads was of substandard quality, for which it blacklisted six contractors and two third-party contractors. A year ago, it withheld payments to 16 contractors. A month ago, an inquiry team submitted its trial report on the second phase of the roads scam investigation, which found that 200 roads didn't have a bottom layer, despite the fact that R1,000 crore had been spent on them.

Take a look at any road, or what passed for a road, outside your residence or office. Take a look at it today, then look at it midway through the monsoons. Try and figure out why it costs as much as it does to fix it, and why it needs to be fixed every six months. Try and figure out why there has never been anything close to a
solution, despite the fact that the same complaints, ideas and quick fixes have cropped up for decades. It's clear to anyone with half a functional brain that someone, somewhere, is earning a significant amount of money to ensure that the road outside your residence or office will never be smooth.

Interestingly, according to some reports, the BMC has spent R40,267.26 crore on the creation of infrastructure in Bombay over the past 10 years, a chunk of which goes towards the building and maintenance of roads. It's a staggering amount of money for results that are so obviously poor.

No one is saying maintaining a road in this city is easy, of course, given the daily wear and tear of ever-increasing vehicular traffic and the sheer force of our rains. The municipal commissioner himself has admitted that digging a road here is complicated simply because his organisation isn't aware of the exact number of utility lines under it. What boggles the mind is how so much time, energy and money is spent on achieving so little, especially after every facet of the problem has been highlighted and discussed for years.

Nothing will change, naturally. The rains will come, wash away large parts of the city, cold and hot mixes will be tried as quick fixes and promptly fail, there will be inquiry committees set up, and their reports will be discussed for seven months, after which there will be a rush to try and fix the roads before the next monsoons. This cycle will only repeat itself because we allow it to.

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

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