Dumping ground fires, compulsory yoga, death of a penguin, the multi-crore road scam, decisions and indecisions — 2016 was a rocky road for the city’s civic body.
In the year leading to a crucial election, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) several controversies ensured it was always in the headlines.
The year opened with one of the worst fires the city has ever seen. On January 28th, the Deonar dumping ground was engulfed in smoke after a fire broke out. So major was the blaze that it took the fire brigade a week to bring it under control. The next two months that followed had the brigade addressing 11 more major calls, and nearby areas like Govandi, Rafi Nagar, Chembur and Mankhurd drowned in thick layers of smoke for weeks, severely harming the health of its residents.
The BMC may have doused those flames, but it is yet to find a solution to stop fires at the overburdened dump yard — and the city’s garbage problem on the whole.
Meanwhile, senior civic officials, including two chief engineers, were arrested in a roads scam that surfaced this year. A BMC inquiry revealed malpractices in how 34 roads across the city were built —from how the foundation was laid to tender conditions not being followed. The Mumbai police have so far arrested 26 people involved.
“Unless the administration and political parties keep a strong vigil on each other, the story of scams and controversies will continue,” said James John, a citizen activist.
While heavy rains cooled Mumbai, religious discussions heated BMC committee meetings, as the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP combined passed a proposal to make yoga and surya-namaskar compulsory in all civic schools.
The death of the 18-month-old penguin Dory at the Byculla zoo landed the Shiv Sena in a spot. Dory was one of the eight Humboldt Penguins brought from Korea in a much-hyped project. Furore followed. Political parties and animal activists claimed the BMC could not handle animals and alleged irregularities in the appointment of the contractor. There were demands to send the penguins back.
And then, there was trouble from B-Town, after comedian Kapil Sharma claimed on Twitter that BMC officials asked him for a bribe of Rs5 lakh to let him build his office. Little did he know messing with officials would land him in trouble. The same day, officials revealed that Sharma was himself under the scanner for making unauthorised extensions to his office in Andheri.
The year ahead may be more exciting, with civic elections scheduled for February. It has already pitted allies Sena and BJP against each other.
The BMC is also likely to pass the city’s Development Plan (DP) 2034 in March after months of delay.
The Bombay’s high court’s deadline to shut down the Deonar dump is June, and the monsoon will be a major test for the roads and desilting department as the unearthing of the scam and promises of action that followed raises expectation for better work