Mumbai rains: This deluge of excuses won’t do, authorities have to be held accountable | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Mumbai rains: This deluge of excuses won’t do, authorities have to be held accountable

Thirty centimetres of rainfall drowned a city celebrated as India’s financial capital and with a civic body with a budget larger than many small states

editorials Updated: Aug 30, 2017 18:40 IST
Flooded roads at Andheri, Mumbai,  August 29. Twelve years later, the downpour was only a third of that in 2005, but the impact was nearly as bad.
Flooded roads at Andheri, Mumbai, August 29. Twelve years later, the downpour was only a third of that in 2005, but the impact was nearly as bad. (Shashi S Kashyap/HT )

What happened in Mumbai on Tuesday was criminal. Thirty centimetres of rainfall in a day drowned a city celebrated as India’s financial capital and with a civic body with a budget larger than many small states. Lakhs of people were stranded at railway stations or their workplaces or spent the night wading home through flooded roads. As the sun rose heralding a new day, it brought to light fresh horror. Scores of people, most of them aged men and women, were missing. One man seems to have fallen into an open manhole and drowned. His umbrella was found floating nearby.

It’s not as if those who are paid to keep the city running and its citizens safe did not know that there could be a deluge on Tuesday. The weatherman had sounded a warning three days ago and repeated it on Monday. More than enough time to prepare. But that is the crux of the problem. We never learn from our mistakes. After the great deluge of July 26, 2005, when 944 mm of rain fell in 24 hours, there was a lot of talk that the authorities would be better prepared the next time around. Twelve years later, the downpour was only a third of that in 2005, but the impact was nearly as bad. Mumbai was saved from worse because the rain stopped, not because the authorities did anything. What was heartwarming was that Mumbaiites as usual stepped up to lend each other a helping hand. Locals came out on to the streets to direct pedestrians and vehicles away from danger on flooded roads, community groups opened free kitchens, and people opened up their homes to those stranded.

That is as it should be in any civilised society, but shouldn’t the civic body and the state government be held to account? And don’t forget the railways, which summarily shut services on the three lines by 12.30 pm on Tuesday. This left at least 30 lakh commuters stranded. The railways say they can’t do anything if the tracks are flooded. Really? In this day and age can’t they build a better drainage system? The railways blame the civic body and the civic body blames the weather. Where does that leave the Mumbaiite? This tactic of passing the buck is endemic across the country. Remember the floods of 2015 that devastated Chennai? Or the recent floods in Bihar. People die, property is destroyed, and the authorities make excuses that would be comical if they weren’t so abhorrent or go after those who complain. Remember, RJ Malishka, whose jingle on potholes in Mumbai led to the civic body sending her mother a notice accusing her of breeding mosquitoes? It really is time we put our foot down. We must hold those we elect and pay to run our cities and towns and villages accountable. Life cannot go on as usual.