Mumbai mayor’s warning: ‘Follow Covid safety norms or we will have no choice but to impose lockdown’
As she completed one year in office on November 22, mayor Kishori Pednekar on Wednesday spoke to HT about her priorities for the city. Amid plan to distribute Covid vaccine, Pednekar said “the authorities may not be left with any other option than lockdown in case of a second wave, if citizens do not follow safety protocols”.
Excerpts from an interview with the health worker-turned-politician, who is the city’s 77th mayor:
How was your first year in office as a mayor?
Very challenging, thanks to the Covid-19 epidemic. Four months after I took charge as the mayor, we had to handle the unprecedented health crisis. I think our handling of the pandemic has been much better than several cities. Besides, I have taken up several initiatives to streamline the administrative process.
Do you think Mumbai will have to go into a lockdown if a second wave hits Mumbai?
It is very clear from what chief minister Uddhav Thackerayji said a few days ago. Nobody wants another lockdown, but if the second wave hits us and citizens continue to flout safety protocols, there is no other option. It may be debatable whether lockdown solves the purpose or not, but to some extent it does. We need to understand that unless we have an actual vaccine in our hands, wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing is the only vaccine. I am not saying that citizens are not following safety protocols, but say out of 100, there are always two people who flout it. It is because of these two people that the other 98 will have to suffer. If people do not listen despite so many requests, the administration or the state government will have no other option.
How does the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plan to distribute the vaccine? Do you think that by next year at least 50% of Mumbai will be vaccinated, considering we get a vaccine by January 2021?
As of now, I cannot give any timeline. Mumbai is a huge city and we will definitely want to vaccinate all citizens as soon as possible. There are two or more companies in the race for the vaccine, and we expect the vaccine to come soon. The timeline will depend on when we are likely to get the vaccine and how many doses each individual will require. Some vaccines would require one dose, while some require more than one. For a city like Mumbai, if we have to give every citizen three doses, there is a possibility that this exercise might go on till 2023. Hence, it will be wrong to give a statement on any date for now.
What about setting up infrastructure for quick distribution and administration of vaccine?
The state government has appointed a taskforce to plan vaccine distribution mechanism. From the BMC’s end, we are also preparing a master plan on vaccine storage and distribution. Detailed planning on setting up network to administer the vaccine and who will get it first will be made in the coming days.
There are several allegations of corruption by civic officials in awarding contracts during Covid-19. What is your reaction?
It is not that the administration has the power to spend the funds the way they want. They have to follow certain rules and guidelines. If there is any violation or wrongdoing by the administration, action will be taken.
The BJP has made allegations that you misused your position as a mayor and also obtained tenements allotted by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) illegally. How do you respond to that?
In case of allegations that are made against me, there is an authority named SRA involved. So we should ask the authority if there was any wrongdoing. This will bring out the truth. I am ready to clarify things. If there is anything wrong, I am here in front of everyone. Nobody is untouchable in case of wrongdoing.
What is the plan for your remaining tenure?
Tackling Covid-19 will remain a priority. Health infrastructure will be on top of our agenda followed by education, better roads, water and fire safety. Taking steps to safeguard environment will also be one of our priorities.
All parties have started preparations for the 2022 civic polls. Are you confident that the Shiv Sena will retain power in BMC?
I am confident of our workers and elected representatives who work for citizens at ground level and not just during the elections. Mumbai’s citizens will vote for us again. I do not want to comment on the BJP, Congress or NCP. As far as the alliances are concerned, the decision will be taken by the Sena leadership.