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Mumbai khadyaat: Fix responsibility, name-shame officials

“Geli geli geli, Mumbai khadyaat” sung with gusto by the irrepressible RJ Malishka to the foot-tapping “Zingat” tune, with lyrics in the city’s street lingo of Hindi-Marathi mix, must have irked them.

mumbai Updated: Jul 19, 2018 00:16 IST
Smruti Koppikar
Smruti Koppikar
Hindustan Times
MUMBAI,kalyan-domvli,potholes
Potholes have claimed lives, five in two weeks in the city and just as many in the larger Mumbai Metropolitan Region especially in Kalyan-Dombivli.(HT PHOTO)

It would be fair to assume that municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray whose party’s corporators call the shots in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, and Public Works Department minister Chandrakant Patil have come across the ‘pothole’ song that’s breaking the internet this week.

“Geli geli geli, Mumbai khadyaat” sung with gusto by the irrepressible RJ Malishka to the foot-tapping “Zingat” tune, with lyrics in the city’s street lingo of Hindi-Marathi mix, must have irked them. “Financial capital India ka, apun hai kehlata; Phir bhi pothole ke aagey sirsaashan mein teke matha” goes a stanza. The wildly popular satirical song humorously describes the pathetic condition of Mumbai’s roads – especially its potholes.

Potholes have claimed lives, five in two weeks in the city and just as many in the larger Mumbai Metropolitan Region especially in Kalyan-Dombivli. Potholes have left commuters injured with severe consequences on their work and long-term health. Potholes have led to traffic snarls forcing lakhs of Mumbaiites to spend two to four hours negotiating a few kilometres. Potholes have also led to political slugfests and free-for-all blame games between parties.

Pothole complaints flood the BMC in thousands. Potholes fill pages of city’s newspapers. Potholes made a curious entry into the state Assembly last week when chief minister Devendra Fadnavis read out numbers of the last few years. “Potholes (in Mumbai) have come down from 14,455 in 2014-15 to 4,044 in 2017-18,” he stated. Activists say potholes would number beyond 20,000.

It’s not about the numbers. It’s about the unfailing appearance and re-appearance of potholes during every monsoon, and the havoc they lead to in the average Mumbaiites’ lives, that’s cause for concern. In fact, this is the picture across Maharashtra. Who is responsible for the deaths, injuries and delays? Who can be charged with either criminal offences or, at least, dereliction of duty? At whose desk does - or should - the buck stop? From one season to the next, these questions are not addressed at all.

Every road has to be re-laid so that potholes do not occur, but responsibility has to be fixed and exemplary actions taken for the potholes that exist. Even the Bombay High Court’s raps have not shamed the BMC or state government into decisive and corrective action. Those in charge cleverly steer the discussion away from responsibility and accountability to the number of potholes.

Even one pothole is one too many. It has the potential to take a life. Patil shamelessly declared that the deaths “were not due to potholes because five lakh people used the same road”. Mehta probably does not venture beyond south Mumbai where potholes are few and far between. Thackeray’s vehicles are robust and plush enough to cushion him from pothole jerks.

We know the story: corrupt road contractors, sub-standard work, lack of oversight by or with connivance of BMC and PWD officials, some contractors fined small amounts, the threat of being black-listed becoming meaningless for them, some cold mix solutions offered, some tech-led solutions discussed, and so on. Never mind the “solutions” worked out in a season, cometh the next monsoon, cometh the potholes.

To make it worse, the BMC claims to have filled most potholes but a cursory survey would refute it. No wonder that people are agitated, even angry. But the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena type protests – ransacking offices, making officials do sit-ups, digging up pavements – lead to nothing. If opposition parties decide, they could harass the Fadnavis government and Sena-led BMC over potholes but that calls for action beyond photo-ops.

Mumbai, and the MMR, are at an unbelievable juncture: Top cops have warned the government that the pathetic road conditions creating anguish and anger in citizens may result in law-and-order situations. Shocking.

If a fraction of the time, thought and resources for the ill-conceived Coastal Road could be diverted to the city’s roads, the situation might have improved. Name and shame the culpable contractors as well as the officials responsible. It may help.

Or we will have to sublimate our anger through songs and watch Mumbai going “khadyaat”.

First Published: Jul 19, 2018 00:16 IST