Netas talk Mumbai, for a change

Citizens of this bustling metropolis must feel fortunate as two significant developments took place within a week — a wide-ranging seven-hour discussion over Mumbai by legislators at a meeting, and a candid analysis of the issues plaguing the city by Sharad Pawar, considered an authority on state politics.

The first meeting, where 33 of the 42 legislators (the city has 47 legislators, 36 from the assembly and 11 from the state council) participating, spoke at length, highlighting basic issues of Mumbai before chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, his cabinet colleagues, 11 secretaries of various departments of the state government, besides chiefs of BMC, MHADA, MMRDA, CIDCO and SRA.

According to those who were part of the congregation at Sahyadri state guesthouse, the discussion, probably for the first time, was over general issues and rarely was any personal matter raised by anyone. During the discussion, each speaker broached a number of points and most were related to civic amenities, infrastructure, traffic, housing, slums, water supply, protection of open spaces, forest land, environment, power supply and railway services. Almost everyone was heard asking for policy decisions on such subjects.

Interestingly, legislators from the ruling Congress and NCP were more vocal than their counterparts from opposition parties. It was a refreshing change from the recent past when stakeholders of city politics would moot issues of personal interest, ignoring what the financial capital needs to raise living standards of its populace. The meeting came at a time when politicians are being blamed for encouraging encroachment, helping land mafia grab prime plots, backing the builders’ lobby, corrupt babus and so on.

An important demand came in during the discussion when one of the speakers said there should be periodic meetings, at least once in a fortnight, involving heads of city police, BMC, MHADA, MMRDA, SRA and CIDCO, to discuss important issues of the city.

Fervent appeals were also made to complete ongoing work on Metro, monorail and water transport projects to ease traffic congestion, have different office timings in the city to reduce burden on public transport, RTO registration of new vehicles be done taking into account the parking space, one tenement only be provided in a rehabilitation project to a family even if it has more than one shanty in its name, etc. And, hold your breath, a demand was also made to use plastic waste to fill up potholes based on a similar experiment in Andhra Pradesh.

A complaint was also made that rehabilitation buildings in SRA were nothing but vertical slums as compared to the commercial component exploited by the developer on the same plot. Objections were made over the DC regulations amended at the behest of ex-BMC commissioner Subodh Kumar, terming them as impractical. A prominent leader from the opposition said it’s time to decide whether we are ‘pro-development or pro-developers’. Nice touch!

Another proposed that to save government plots from further encroachment, fencing should be carried out at the earliest with data pertaining to it made available on the website. In his concluding remark, CM Prithviraj Chavan — often projected as a villain by some of his own party men for his tough posture against the unscrupulous builders’ lobby and mafias that control city affairs — promised to get back to them with an ATR (action taken report) its politicians.

In his frank scrutiny of city issues, Sharad Pawar — who has served as state CM four times and is now a union minister — while addressing legislators during a symposium at Vidhan Bhavan on “Maharashtra: past, present and future”, marking the birth centenary year of the state’s first CM YB Chavan, rued the neglect of Mumbai, saying the city is on the verge of collapse and nothing is being done to fix it. He also raised the point that Mumbai, which generates more than half of the state’s total sales tax revenues, is getting pittance in return.

The state government is doing nothing, said the NCP chief, a coalition partner of the Democratic Front government here since the last 12 years. The maverick politician has clearly trained his guns on Congress, the ‘big brother’, controlling the urban development, housing, and revenue departments, responsible for the city’s development the most. But the duties of the home department, controlled by NCP, of policing the city affairs, cannot be just wished away.

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY¬†

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