Fourteen years have passed. July 26, 2005, is still fresh in the hearts and minds of Mumbaikars. Not because they had to go through a nature-cum-man-made deluge, but because they are reminded of it every year. "On July 26, 2005, at 2:00 pm, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region was struck by a severe storm and the subsequent deluge. The Indian Meteorological Department station in Santacruz recorded 944 mm of rain for the 24 hours ending at 8:30 am on July 27.
Even a mention of it brings back a host of memories." Just Google for the fateful day. Back to July 2, 2019. A wall collapsed and killed more than 20 in Malad. Two friends died in their car which was stuck in deep watersin an underpass. Ruptured and sunken roads were claiming lives (and bones). The Navy had to be called in as if it was a war situation. Humanity, as always, was at test. Good Samaritans emerged from every nook and corner, stretching a helping hand in these times of crisis.
They chucked off the rules and regulations, parked their bikes on the footpath, if the footpath was to be seen, and got into action. A common thread was all Mumbaikarscursing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation: The taxpayers feel cheated and conned, when they have to face such an ordeal of un-preparedness and bureaucraticinertia during every downpour. The BMC, its coffers bursting at the seams, presents civic budgets with overweening targets.
Out of Rs 30,692 crore budget in 2019-20, their draft had a provision of Rs 11,480.42 crore for improvement of the city's infrastructure -- roads, storm water drains, bridges, solid waste management and water projects. All the plans were washed down the drain. The BMC on Monday made a profound statement, "550 mm rain in 48 hours.’’ But it was curiously silent about water-logging on the roads, railway tracks and residential areas. It may be "trying its best", but that's not enough. Filing FIRs against companies with illegal drain outlets, waiting for a legal nod to axe trees so that they could widen the roads, increasing drainage capacity of the gutters, are a few of
those preparations the BMC had done before the Monsoon. There were no 'potholes' in the budget, though.We ought to fix the onus on somebody. The BMC would not have left the manholes open, obviously. So, please raise your hands and reply, who stole the covers of the sewage pits
from the streets? And, incidentally, the BMC did not broaden roads the entire year. Our legal system will take years to deliver verdicts to stamp out illegal construction and even more time to execute the orders. Now, raise your hand, and reply who has encroached on the roads of the government? It is a mixed bag -- he BMC blames the public and vice-versa. I would suggest to all the tourists wish to visit Mumbai; this is the right time to descend on the city. Bas zara hat ke, zara bach ke, ye hai Mumbai meri jaan... One can see the resilience and the fighting spirit in a Mumbaikar during times of distress but we can’t be content with such abstractions. We need something more tangible on the ground -- action by the BMC and the city’s multiple authorities. Other cities in Maharashtra are no less beautiful. Nashik, for example, has lovely big potholesoozing with mud.
The Nashik Corporation addressed a few roads in April but allowed the footpaths to remain muddy and filthy. So, you can easily drive on the roads and walk on the pavements once the sun is back and the streets dry up to show you the way. The Nashik Corporation has preserved a site at Lam Road, towards Belatgaon, for you to purview. God’s
gift to humanity, these civic men and women, ignore this 400-metre stretch every time, and still win elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in hi Mann Ki Baat that people should take advantage of the rains. He underscored the need for rainwater harvesting. Mumbai has the best chance to please the PM and save water that will meet its needs round the year. There is no less silver lining in the clouds. The students are, of course, happy that the BMC 'ordered' the schools and colleges to remain closed, if rains persist. IMD has put out a warning of heavy to very heavy rainfall in the next three days. The President's rule has been extended in Jammu and Kashmir for another six months. Could Mr President help Mumbai during the rain?
- Pragya Jain