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Why look only at parts of the whole?

A senior legislator from the city gave quite a scathing reply, when asked about the outcome of a meeting held at Vidhan Bhavan recently. This was a routine meeting that takes place in the session period of the state legislature, where ruling party MLAs and MLCs are given a chance to voice their concerns before the CM and other ministers. The disgruntled legislator later said that nothing concrete is achieved in any of these meetings because legislators only speak about their respective constituencies instead of looking at the city and its problems holistically. “We must speak about Mumbai as a whole, since most of the issues are interconnected,” the legislator murmured.

Many others appeared equally unhappy at the end of the meeting. Several of them did not get their chance to speak, as the meeting had to be called off midway for some legislative business. 

So it seems that none in the city are happy these days – neither the leaders nor the citizens in their constituencies. And Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is taking his own time to understand the issues that plague the city’s management. As the head of the urban development department that controls BMC, MMRDA and CIDCO, he is the supreme authority in the city. He also heads the housing department that controls MHADA, SRA, and the transport department that controls the RTO.

Legislators say they are asked to speak one by one during the meetings on the issues that concern them, but these discussions do not move beyond their respective constituencies. The administration notes down their concerns and prepares its reply. All the information that results from this exercise remains on paper, with nothing really being done to address the issue.

With the CM at the helm of affairs, the Congress has an upper hand when it comes to managing the city. Shiv Sena and BJP are also accountable, as they rule the BMC. NCP has little or no say because it controls MSRDC, which is mostly defunct now, as no new project for Mumbai has been launched or approved by the cabinet committee on infrastructure headed by the CM recently.

Last week, the sub-committee meeting was held after a long hiatus at Vidhan Bhavan. No infrastructural projects pertaining to the city were discussed, even though the sub-committee has a whole list of pending proposals to take a call on, some of which are crucial — development of water transport, the Worli-Haji Ali sea link, and expansion of the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Citizens of this city who commute in cramped suburban trains and motorists who face traffic woes every day would benefit greatly if they had the option of travelling by waterways that connect the north and south shores of the city. Mumbai is perhaps the only major city in the world, which lacks water transport, despite having an extended seacoast.

With the government deferring its decisions, officials of the MSRDC are basically twiddling their thumbs in their offices, and then drawing their salaries at the end of the month. When and if the projects are finalised, their cost have risen exponentially, of course at the cost of the taxpaying citizens.

If the projects do manage to see light of day after interminable delays, their execution is left at the mercy of the contractors. No project undertaken is ever completed in time, and without cost escalations.

Surprisingly, no leader at BMC or MMRDA wants the contractors to be taken to task for the inferior quality of works.

Meanwhile, the average Mumbaikar’s tolerance levels are miraculously high.

Negotiating scarred roads and pothole-riddled streets is a daily affair, thanks to the thick-skinned BMC and its lazy contractors.

Shiv Sena party chief Uddhav Thackeray, whose word is final for the party corporators in the BMC, was unwilling to react on the issue of potholes. He only spoke out when reports surfaced in the media on the agonies faced by senior citizens and expecting mothers. Whenever the management of city affairs is debated, Thackeray points his finger towards the MMRDA, referring to it as a parallel authority to BMC and conveniently forgetting that both mayor and standing committee chief are members of his party.

The average Mumbaikar doesn’t ask for much. He pays his taxes diligently and expects in return fairly managed transport and civic affairs, and affordable housing. Is this asking for too much?

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY 

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