Lindsay Pereira: When riot police guard a bridge...

If we must wait for politicians’ blessings to claim what is ours, why stop at bridges — why not let them inaugurate our homes and offices too?

State Reserve Police Force personnel were deployed earlier this week in Vasai. There was no riot, obviously, because as the state of Gujarat has taught us, it’s rare to spot the police when there actually is a riot in progress. No, these well-equipped, armed gentlemen were deployed to protect a bridge from people who live in the vicinity. They were there to prevent people from foolishly attempting to make use of the bridge in order to get from Vasai East to Vasai West.

Nearly a week after the riot police were called in to stop people from using the Vasai bridge, it will finally be inaugurated this morning
Nearly a week after the riot police were called in to stop people from using the Vasai bridge, it will finally be inaugurated this morning

There is nothing wrong with the bridge, of course, which is not to say it’s a perfect bridge because it was built by the MMRDA, an organisation that has never built anything perfectly since the day of its formation. The bridge took approximately seven years to build, six of which were presumably spent moving its file from one office to another. More interestingly, the decision to commission a new bridge was made over a period of four decades. Locals using the old bridge for all those years simply didn’t have a choice. It’s not as if letters to politicians would lead to any real development or anything, would it?

As for the SRPF, it is usually called out for disaster management operations, the security of vital installations or to fight whoever the government currently believes is a Naxalite. This time, it was called because a few locals, understandably frustrated after a 7-year wait, decided to throw open the bridge without waiting for a politician to inaugurate it.

No sane person I know has ever been able to figure out why a politician needs to inaugurate anything. I understand one of them inaugurating a public toilet or something, because there is a natural affinity between toilets and politics, but I fail to understand why they need to throw open things they have had absolutely nothing to do with.

Media reports suggest the MMRDA was waiting for the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to inaugurate the bridge, which is bizarre because he wasn’t the Chief Minister when the bridge was commissioned. He wasn’t even living in our city. The foundation stone of the bridge must have been laid with another inauguration at the hands of another politician who, again, must have had nothing to do with coming up with the idea of the bridge. And yet, the MMRDA (like the BMC and every other organisation filled with servile folk who bend over backwards to make a politician look good) felt that a 7-year wait could be extended by a few days simply because they wanted to give a minister another photo opportunity.

And so, naturally, the locals did what we should all do. They began using the bridge. MMRDA officials were understandably appalled, because a project isn’t really complete unless a politician says it’s complete and pats himself on the back for something he had nothing to do with. So, 24 hours after the bridge was used, it was shut down again, until workers of a number of political parties appeared, each trying to ‘inaugurate’ it for their own political benefit. An MNS worker told this paper that, if the bridge wasn’t opened soon, they would open it in ‘MNS style.’ No one has informed our political parties that hooliganism is not a ‘style,’ but that’s another story. Eventually, the SRPF were called.

The bridge will supposedly be inaugurated today, presumably after some minister takes time out from his busy schedule involving other inaugurations to throw this one open. It will then deteriorate after a few monsoons on account of the shoddy work that is the hallmark of every MMRDA undertaking. Eventually, a decade from now, a politician will think of commissioning another bridge to replace this one, leading to more photo opportunities, pointless delays and a new bridge five decades later. The locals who threw open the current bridge will have passed on by then, leaving their children and grandchildren to struggle from Vasai East to West as their parents did. The only positive thing about how this story ends is the fact that no one will remember any of the politicians who cut those ribbons over the bridge’s long and pointless history.

Maybe politicians shouldn’t just inaugurate bridges and roads. We should invite them to inaugurate our homes too, before we move in. Invite them to inaugurate offices and cars before we start using them. Invite them to inaugurate our new electronic appliances before we switch them on. It’s not as if they have anything important to do.

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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