Fast-tracking Metro 3, the only answer to criticism
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya must take on the challenge of dedicating the service to the people of Mumbai as early as possible, and not delay it as the Opposition predicts
The shifting of the Metro 3 car shed from Aarey Milk Colony to Kanjurmarg has received a mixed response from Mumbaikars. Some support the decision, some oppose it, and others don't care about the relocation, as long as the construction of the much-delayed project is expedited and they get to ride the 'tube' at the earliest. With the new development, a further delay is certain, but considering that the Thackeray government's decision is final and it is resolved to fast-forward in the redesigned format, expecting them to reduce the delay significantly isn't out of place in the current scheme of things.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his minister son Aaditya have led the change. Now they are expected to take on the challenge of dedicating the service to the people of Mumbai as early as possible, and not by the delayed deadline of 2025 that the opposition has projected. The Phase-1 (Aarey-BKC), in its original design, was expected to be operational in December 2021, and Phase-2 (BKC-Cuffe Parade) in June 2022. Assuming that the one-year-old MVA remains politically stable and rules through a five-year-term, people may expect it to not only complete Metro 3 ahead of a new (government) deadline, but also all other big ticket metro and infra projects that kicked off in the erstwhile Sena-BJP government, and the MVA chose to implement in their original format.
All eyes on the Centre
Now, over to the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), which functions under the Metro Act that gives the Centre certain powers. Additionally, MMRCL is a joint venture and special purpose vehicle of the Maharashtra and union government, wherein officials from both entities form the board of directors. There are three functional directors. The MMRCL stands out in features when compared to the sole promoter of other metro corridors, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). People in the know say that the state government has considered the Centre factor and worked on it. The state BJP has started a movement to tell the people that the change in metro plan will cost taxpayers more money and make commuting expensive. The greens and Sena supporters are out to counter the BJP's campaign, explaining how a reserved forest cover of 800 acres will benefit the city's coming generations. They deny cost escalation in the metro corridor. The MVA's counter strategy will depend on the way the authorities beyond their control react to the amended plan. The environmentalists and citizen groups will have yet another weapon in their arsenal if any obstacle that suggests the Centre's hand is created in the near future.
The week of inquiries
Last week marked several inquiry announcements. The state government said it will set up a special investigation team to probe ex-CM Devendra Fadnavis' pet water conservation project Jala Yukta Shivar. The BJP called it political vendetta. Around the same time, the Enforcement Directorate launched a probe into money laundering allegations in the irrigation projects, bringing deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar back under the scanner in a case that the state anti-corruption bureau has already scrapped. The Maharashtra Assembly speaker Nana Patole issued an order to investigate the land acquisition transactions in the Nanar Chemical Refinery that was conceived by the BJP government. The state legislature's privilege committees asked a news television anchor to appear before them in the Vidhan Bhavan.
The state and centre governments ordered inquiries into the recent unprecedented power failure in the city and MMR. State electricity regulator MERC has summoned the stakeholders for a suo-motu hearing later this week. All these probes will work on the technical side, and may not deal with energy minister Dr Nitin Raut's allegations of sabotage in the power failure. The serious allegation should be investigated by competent agencies. The employees of the Maharashtra electricity transmission and distribution companies have set a high professional standard by fighting the hostile rain and storm in the Sahyadri hills to restore the supply. They deserve kudos. Against this backdrop, the private utilities were not seen as proactive as they were expected to be on the day of failure. One of them has been sent a notice to explain the alleged inefficiency. The same corporate company is also accused of delaying the construction of a substation that could have helped the city in bringing in more power from outside. Now it has been asked to hand over immediately a land parcel to the other city utility to construct the said substation.
It's better to talk less about the political enquiries because they are decided by the powers-that-be who want a tool to create a public perception. All parties have used it and they will continue to exploit it for political gains. But in the midst of political mess, apolitical inquiries shouldn't be delayed and rendered ineffective. Probes in the power outage should recommend prompt action that can be taken to improve our lives. One such inquiry was held a long ago, but since it wasn't acted upon, the city endured what it didn't deserve.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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