Several times over the past five years elected representatives in the civic body have failed to guard the interests of the city and its residents. Instead, in many cases, corporators, who are expected to keep a close watch on the functioning of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), have been accused of being part of the nexus of contractors and officials, which is mostly to blame for shoddy civic work in the city.
“People are fed up with corporators as we see them hankering after tenders rather than doing meaningful work,” said Sharad Kumar, trustee, Action for Good Governance and Networking of India (AGNI).
One of India’s richest civic bodies, the BMC has failed its citizens on basic counts such as providing good roads, regular water supply and curbing diseases. Despite public outcry, corporators have often protected the interests of a few rather than the city. Take the case of the sorry state of the roads this monsoon: Corporators recently awarded road tenders worth Rs 1,000 crore to companies fined for sub-standard work.
In one of the biggest controversies in 2008, the Sena tabled a proposal to hand over Crawford Market to a developer for redevelopment. The proposal was backed by the Opposition, the Congress, and got stalled only after citizens slammed the decision. In 2007, had Mumbaiites not objected, the Sena-BJP-led BMC would have handed over 40 grounds to developers to build private clubs, denying citizens access to the open spaces.
“The administration is run by builders and contractors. There is no accountability as those who performed badly were awarded more contracts,” said Ashok Pandit, vice-chairman, Gulmohar Area Societies Welfare Group.
This year, the government pulled up the BMC for financial mismanagement — there have been no audits of balance sheets for years. “This is not the way India’s commercial capital should be managed,” said Sherley Singh, secretary, Juhu Scheme Residents Association.
Rahul Shewale, standing committee chairman, argues corporators have done a good job. “There are difficulties in running such a huge body, overall it was a good term; we did a great job,” he said.
Congress corporator Rajendra Prasad Choube blamed citizens. “Citizens’ expectations have increased and we are doing our best,” said Choube. “Everything cannot be perfect.”