“Miffed at the way things have been handled by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) regarding the numerous potholes on city roads, Mumbai guardian minister Jayant Patil decided to take some officials concerned on ride in his car.
On Wednesday, keeping the security personnel away, the minister himself drove his Honda City and took three additional civic commissioners for a tour of Marine Drive, Peddar Road and Opera House. After a point of time the officials requested the minister to end the bumpy ride and said that they knew the condition of roads across the city.” [read the full article]
Now, given that I took the Chief Minister himself on a tour of Mumbai last week, one might imagine that I would appreciate Mr. Patil’s activism. Wrong.
For starters, taking a tour on a car (a windshield survey) gives a completely wrong picture – I would much rather walk, or cycle, or take a bus. But then, this is a minister we are talking about – he probably hasn’t walked ever since he joined the cabinet. All he cares about are the roads near Mantralaya – can you imagine anyone less fortunate complaining about the roads on Marine Drive? Well, why doesn’t he try walking on the non-existent footpaths of Andheri? That might just put things in perspective.
But what irritates me the most is the completely inappropriate way in which this man is bossing around officials from BMC (Brihanmumbai Metrpolitan Corporation). Jayant Patil is officially the Minister for Rural Development in the Maharashtra Cabinet. His role as “guardian minister” for Mumbai is completely unofficial, and does not allow him to order about officials of the municipal corporation. On the other hand, the real bosses – the elected mayor and the councillors of BMC – are being ignored.
I wrote some days ago about the manner in which the newly elected government in the Bengaluru Municipal Corporation (BBMP) is being sidelined by the bureaucracy. Elsewhere, Kalpana Sharma writes about small town municipal councils struggling to implement their policies because the executive officers refuse to show interest.
But one might also look to the Pune Metropolitan Corporation, where the post of the Mayor continues to hold meaning. Consequently, there is more active participation in governance, more debate, more scrutiny on the plans and policies of the city government, and as a result, Pune is making relatively more meaningful plans for its development.
So here’s my message to Mr. Patil: Do your job first. You could start by fixing the problem of suicides in Vidarbha, which continues, though somewhat reduced in count. If you must take part in Mumbai’s affairs, do so as a common citizen in the public arena, not as a privileged politician trying to get his own way. And respect the constitutional mandate that rests with municipal corporations – they deserve every bit of it.
PS: I don’t mean to say that the potholes shouldn’t be repaired – my concern is with the manner in which municipal authorities are being denied independence in functioning.