If the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) promise you the moon in the upcoming civic elections, you might want to think again.
On the eve of the polls, Hindustan Times conducted an audit of the big-ticket projects for Mumbai announced by the ruling alliance over the years, and found that the city’s makeover has been waylaid by poor planning and a lack of accountability, transparency and political will. The government also failed the city on smaller projects like better traffic management, and maintenance of flyovers, with commuters having to suffer potholes on even newly constructed flyovers.
While it would be unfair to hold the ruling alliance accountable for the poll promises they made during the 2007 civic elections, which they lost, they must accept a large part of the blame for the mess the city is in today.
“The Congress and NCP are not directly responsible to us for providing civic amenities, but they had announced grand plans for the city. And, these plans have not materialised, leading to serious questions about political will. They (Congress and NCP) have failed Mumbai too,” said Uttara Sahasrabuddhe, a political analyst.
Take the classic case of the celebrated 5.6-km-long Bandra-Worli sea link. It took Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) eight years to build the sea bridge, with a cost overrun of 125 per cent of the original cost. Three years after the sea link has opened up, there is still no consensus on how it should be carried forward up to Nariman Point, with mandarins in the state secretariat now convinced that a coastal road is the best option.
Experts have also raised questions about transparency in the way projects have been selected and public private partnership deals inked.
“Why the hasty decisions to build skywalks that have cost Rs700 crore and a transit system like the monorail, which experts had pointed out as unviable for the city? Why hasn’t the bus rapid transit system, that costs less than half of a monorail project, not been given a serious push,” asked Ashok Datar, transport expert.
Sahasrabuddhe also pointed out that many of the public-private-partnership projects (P-P-P) of the government have had less of public interest and more of private interest at their core.
For instance, questions have been raised about the way agreements had been drafted in the case of the Mumbai Transharbour link or the road maintenance agreements. Marred makeover | Why the BMC polls matters
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had also admitted that private partnership projects lacked transparency and, in many cases, should be realigned to favour the government and the public.
Narinder Nayar, chairman of Bombay First, which has pushed for the Mumbai makeover, however said that the main reason for pathetic implementation has been lack of accountability.
“The makeover has been marred by poor implementation as no one is accountable. Myriad agencies are involved. This leads to half-baked ideas being taken forward, which invariably fail,” he said
Nayar, however, gave the Congress a thumbs up for being receptive to new ideas. “The state government and CMs have been very receptive to whatever we have asked or suggested, including setting up of a citizens’ action group to monitor the makeover. There is political will at the top, I don’t know if it gets translated across the hierarchy.”