DO NUMBERS SUBSTITUTE REALITY ON THE GROUND?


Over the past couple of months, a question had been doing the rounds of political circles – whether the ruling party, the BJP would with its national ally, the Shiv Sena in the municipal elections of the State. Ever since the elections in Maharashtra took place in 2014, the Shiv Sena, a part of the government, has often criticized the Devendra Fadnavis led BJP for underperforming or for not listening to the people of the state. Owing to their differences, both parties campaigned separately for the municipal polls held on 21st February.

As evident from the results declared, the BJP won majority seats in most of the municipalities and lost to the Shiv Sena by a mere two seats in Mumbai. While celebrations took place across the state, the BJP’s national executive saw the results as the peoples answer to demonetization. Newspapers referred to Devendra Fadnavis as BJP’s hero and some even linked the civic election results to the strongly contested Uttar Pradesh elections where the BJP hopes to win full majority. Post the results in Mumbai, both the contending parties- the Shiv Sena and the BJP, have been in talks for seat sharing since no party has a clear majority. Amidst these talks, it appears that the real objective of the election-to elect a party to improve the condition of the city, has been forgotten.

With the election to India’s richest municipality now over, one would expect a renewed focus on the requirements of the city. Being the richest does have its perks, but interestingly it also has its disadvantages- people expect more. One would assume that certain basic services that are not available in cities anywhere in the country would be easily found in Mumbai, but that is not the case, basic facilities remain amiss even in the country’s financial capital.

While the city’s prosperity has increased manifold over the years, the same cannot be said about the roads in the city. There emerge hundreds of complains regarding potholes every day- as many as 14,140 potholes were repaired in 2014 at a cost of 25 crores even though the BMC claims to spend crores on improving roads, the condition remains miserable. Potholes, apart from being detrimental to safety, have also resulted in traffic issues which have simply gotten worse.

The menace of fake realtors continues unabated. Illegal construction remains rampant and the municipal authorities appear to be unaware. Between 2010 and 2015, there were 1,366 incidents of buildings collapsing. It is a well-known fact that such realtors use poor quality materials for construction and this problem has not been addressed by the corporation for a very long time which has often resulted in many civilian deaths.

The city continues to be affected by floods every monsoon owing to the lack of a well-functioning sewage system. Last year itself, the city faced a severe flood crisis which brought the entire city to a standstill- trains were stopped and vehicular movements were severely affected. For a city that is prone to receive rainfall, these issues should never arise for the simple reason that the state through its municipalities would be prepared for any eventuality; however, in Mumbai one would question whether any mechanisms were put in place post the floods that took place in 2005. Moreover, it is the State itself that suffers losses in its revenues because employees cannot reach their workplaces, the trains that help thousands of individuals travel across the city, stop functioning owing to flooding to tracks- all this essentially brings the city to a standstill.

While it may also be true that few people only vote for a certain party due to ideological affinity, the other larger section of people who wish to see their surroundings change cannot be ignored. For a city like Mumbai, often referred to as the Maximum City, no part can remain the same- accommodation for increase in vehicular traffic must be made, ways to prevent the city from becoming a concrete jungle should be thought of, ways of improving the standard of living must be implemented, hence, there can never be a status quo. Unfortunately, even though we have demarcated cities, we have been unsuccessful in maintaining them. Services such as waste management, roads, water, electricity or even houses are basic requirements of any city, but to be the richest state in India and to still have these issues is something that needs to be checked and corrected.

Political parties running corporations owe the people who elected them a better city and better services, unfortunately ground reality is conveniently being misjudged by relating it with numbers. The large number of seats that parties get mesmerized by is more than just a sign of popularity for the party, rather it is also a reminder that work remains to be done- if Mumbai is the financial capital of India, focus shouldn’t just be on glittering skyscrapers but also on the general wellbeing of the populace- proper roads, sanitation, permanent and trustworthy houses to live in are still some of the necessities that the city demands. If the BJP is confident because of its numbers, it must do more than mere chest thumping to retain similar results in the next municipal elections.

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Abhishek Ganguly
Abhishek Ganguly

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