Milind Mhaske, Praja Foundation
Milind Mhaske, Praja Foundation

As the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is battling deadly coronavirus, in a recent report - Praja Dialogue, Praja Foundation has pointed out that the civic body is not involving its 227 corporators formally and systematically to reach out to citizens.

BMC corporators meanwhile have blamed the municipal administration for not involving them in any pandemic related decisions or planning.

The foundation in its policy brief has stated that crisis like Coronavirus Pandemic requires a good network and robust network, especially from public representatives.

"Unprecedented crisis situations, like the one resulting from the spread of the novel Coronavirus, requires a multi-faceted response, especially from those in positions of public responsibilities. While preparing this policy brief we spoke to councillors from Mumbai, Delhi and Ahemdabad on their response to the crisis. Despite their unique resources and competencies, they bring, Municipal Corporations were found not to be including them in a formal,

systematic and institutionalised efforts" said Milind Mhaske - Director Praja Foundation.

Praja has described this as a gap that needs to be urgently addressed for a more effective response to the multi-dimensional challenges faced today.

Mumbai is an exception as compared to Delhi and Ahemdabad. BMC has complete control over the public health function, and has medical colleges, municipal hospitals, dispensaries, primary healthcare centres, and ground-level outreach services such as vaccination and hygiene, at its disposal.

The health department has joined other departments of BMC to act immediately and screen people in public spaces, prepare municipal hospitals to treat patients, mark containment zones, and map risk zones. The BMC has been able to proactively and effectively contain the spread and tackle the threat posed by COVID-19 considering its population density. This is also because BMC has the autonomy and resources to take appropriate decisions and act upon them.

"Urban Governance is weak. Corporators are the close the ground, they are directly accountable to the citizens, they are easily accessible to the citizens. Most of them live in the same area as their electoral constituencies. It is must for the Municipal corporation to effectively involve corporators in the process," added Mhaske.

Most corporators feel that they have an important role to play in a crisis like the present one despite the fact that they do not have a formal codified role. They believe that they have a “huge responsibility” in ‘raising morale’, ‘disseminating information’, ‘busting rumours and misinformation’, ‘acting as a bridge between people and administration’ et cetera. However, BMC corporators have slammed the civic authorities for discussing issues, planning in containing COVID 19 outbreak across the city.

Ravi Raja, Congress Corporator and leader of opposition in BMC said: " Since the very beginning, the civic administration has not involved any group leader or any committee head in planning or decision making etc. Being an opposition leader, they should keep me in the loop about the strategy. We hardly know anything that is happening in the civic body. Whatever work we are carrying out in our ward constituencies is on our own risks and resources."

Many councillors reported that they are working with the corporation for fogging in specific areas. Almost all councillors have been engaged in some form of fumigation, fogging, sanitisation or sterilisation. Some councillors also did door to door sanitisation.

"We have not stopped any corporators from doing anything. Their involvement depends on themselves. They can come and discuss their plans we will fully support them on that," said a senior BMC official.

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