Thursday, September 22, 2011

BMC, Don't Kill This City!

Once upon a time, there was a great city in this country where hard work was rewarded with dreams coming true. This was a city that stood out as a beacon of hope when none existed, a city that respected talent, time, honesty and capability. This was the city that got a certain glamourised aura because of these inherent characteristics.

But sadly that city is almost dead now, gasping to survive and bursting at its seams. I am talking about Bombay or Mumbai here.

Over the last two centuries the city has attracted a lot of wealth and talent to give it the character that we see today. All this was supported by a great infrastructure - great roads, efficient local trains, BEST buses, which unarguably are the best in India, efficient electricity supply.

But all that is crumbling today. I have seen that happen gradually over the 7 years that I have been here.The roads are in pathetic shape. We can only guess if the craters that miraculously appear after every downpour outnumber those on the moon or not?

This is not funny at all, especially since BMC is the richest municipal body in India. Where does the wealth of the BMC go? It certainly does not find its way to our roads, but it surely does make BMC employees rich, as the frequent newspaper and tabloid exposes suggest.

In this city, cars need servicing 4 times a year because of the state of the roads. An autorickshaw ride is a ride to hell! There was a joke doing the rounds on Twitter around 9/11 that BMC should be charged with unleashing terror on the city's roads. Another person on Twitter has become a legend for always signing off with a cuss phrase - "BMC ki MKC"!

At times BMC's incompetence or indifference assumes tragic proportions - recently the papers had a carried a story on a cop who was riding a bike, at Powai, with his pregnant wife behind him. He went over a crater, lost his balance and his fell off, only to be crushed to death by a truck that came in from behind. I cannot say more on this except that BMC is full of corrupt nincompoops.

The cab and autorickhaws which were efficient and reasonable in the past have now resorted to rampant meter tampering. At places like Bandra Kurla Complex, which is the nation's premier financial hub, it is a nightmare to hail a cab or an autorickshaw. If you are lucky indeed, you could get overcharged by about 40-50%. Recently when the local RTO launched a drive against tampering, these operators had the audacity to go on a 3-day strike. Then we had a certain politician who spoke out in favour of the operators saying that they were being targetted because they are from Bihar and are of a "certain minority community". Isn't that cheap?

If the city is to be a global city, we cannot have all this crap. We need a vision, something like what Shiela Dixit attempted for Delhi - notwithstanding the corruption following the Commonwealth Games, the city is certainly zippier than what it used to be earlier - lower pollution, efficient metro rail, new flyovers, new airport terminal and an overall beautification.

No one in charge of governance in the city has a vision of any sort that extends beyond their wallets. Everything being done here is with the sole objective of milking the city. But we must remember that you cannot milk a cow beyond a point without feeding it, if you do that you will kill the cow. That is what is happening to this city today.

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