Frenemies look for brownie points amid Versova mess
Frenemies in the state government as well as the Mumbai civic body, the BJP and Shiv Sena have wasted no time in becoming protectors/benefactors for the young lawyer-activistmumbai Updated: Nov 23, 2017 20:47 IST
Afroz Shah’s decision to suspend cleaning up Versova Beach— which he has been doing for 109 weeks — following threats from hoodlums and goons has seen the Shiv Sena and BJP get into yet another joust for brownie points.
Frenemies in the state government as well as the BMC, the two parties have wasted no time in becoming protectors/benefactors for the young lawyer-activist, whose initiative has won him accolades locally, nationally and internationally.
Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray, after meeting Afroz at his party’s headquarters at Shivaji Park, promised him the support of the BMC and the police if he resumes cleaning Versova beach without delay.
Not to be left behind, the Centre, as this newspaper reported day before yesterday, prodded Maharashtra’s chief minister into similar support. Hardip Singh Puri (MoS, housing and urban affairs) tweeted that the CM’s office had instructed the municipal corporation and cops accordingly.
The BJP heads the state government with Sena as its ally, while in the BMC, the roles are reversed. While this seems like an ideal win-win situation for both parties — as well as the citizenry — in fact it has turned out to be quite the opposite.
Relations between the BJP and Sena have been fractious from the beginning of their terms (in Mantralaya and Sachivalaya) and are currently at an all-time low. Salvoes are fired from either side daily, contempt and hostility for the other barely concealed.
The real battle, of course, is for expanding and/or defending political turf. The BJP and Sena are increasingly wooing the same constituency of voters. This has led to insidious back-room manoeuvres and non-stop public disputes between the allies.
But while this often makes for exciting fare in political circles and media, its impact on the city and its denizens is not quite so savoury.
In fact, it can be distasteful (and harmful), as the cleaning up operation of Versova beach highlights.
The fact that private citizens have to get involved in what is essentially the responsibility of civic authorities reveals ineptitude and callousness of the municipal corporation and agencies associated with it. What makes it worse is when activists are targeted by goons.
As has emerged from the Versova case, there exists a mafia even for clearing garbage! Just as it for quarrying stone, mining sand and acquiring water illegally. These mafias may not be operating in connivance with authority, but obviously wield considerable clout.
The situation acquires a doleful dimension when you consider that the amount of trash cleared by Afroz Shah and his volunteers since 2015 (according to the Hindustan Times report) is a humongous 7-million kg! And 11,500 kg of garbage is at the beach at all times.
What this implies is that the cycle of trash accumulating and being cleaned is virtually unending. And though Versova beach may have been the worst affected, it is not to be seen in isolation but is symptomatic of the problem with beaches in and around Mumbai.
Dadar and Girgaum Chowpatty’s may be better, but only just. And it is not just beaches, the entire coastline is under sufferance. What makes Mumbai uniquely pretty and should be its pride has become its shame and a dire health hazard.
You only have to spend some time at the Gateway of India to see the havoc being played out. There are loads and loads of flotsam and jetsam around the pier as far as the eye can see. And muck accompanies you most of the way if you are going to Elephanta Caves or Mandwa.
The report in Thursday’s edition of this paper says that 70 per cent of the waste at Versova beach comes from Malad Creek and nine other such creeks, and 20 per cent from storm water drain openings along its coastline.
The remaining 10 per cent is from trash thrown by citizens. This is not an insignificant volume, and more pertinently, completely in our control.
Even if this part is managed, the mafia gets a setback and the BMC has less scope to play ducks and drakes with us.
How’s that for a start?