It's time that the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), popularly known as the BMC, was superseded by someone neutral — and not the politicians who are corporators — to put the city back to a working condition. The law allows such abolition of elected body if there are good reasons.
And there are good reasons.
Over time, it has failed to meet the needs of the city, even the basic or the minimal ones. It, however, seems to have satisfied the elected representatives, which shows there is a link between a badly managed city and their satisfaction.
This is no plea to de-democratise the civic body which is supposed to reflect the popular will in a system we have known as local self-government. It is only intended to provide the political class a shock because before the 2017 BMC election, a game of smoke and mirrors will be played to fool the citizens.
The irony is that on the strength of popular vote, these politicians within months of being elected, develop vested interests. People cease to be of any use to them till the next elections, when not the city’s, but diverse local issues – the political affiliation, wealth, influence — decide the winner.
If the corporators are sent home, who would be the best choice, apart from allowing an IAS official, to continue as commissioner? The commissioner, whoever the individual is, and however well-intentioned, has been trammeled in doing his work. The commissioner is the administration, the corporators are to deliberate and guide policy and the mayor is the titular head.
The elected representatives from the wards, however, hardly seem to do much, and not even act as watchdogs and ensure the delivery to the city its due in terms of facilities and services. They fight among themselves on inconsequential issues, and make a song and dance about them. Then they use their ‘influence’ to ensure benefits to anybody, including themselves, but not to the city.
An IAS official who is always the commissioner, and of a high rank in the pecking order, however, somehow stays his hand when dealing with the politicians. Who knows who among them would become a minister and head a department? Civic bodies have been the cradle for most politicians with ambition.
For instance, the names of Murli Deora, Manohar Joshi, Diwakar Raote, Sudhir Joshi, Chhagan Bhujbal, Narayan Rane come easily to mind. A few became the chief minister, including the incumbent Devendra Fadnavis, who was once a corporator in the Nagpur Municipal Corporation. Some were mayor before moving upwards and officials, however honest, tend to be practical.
There are few like SS Tinaikar, who some irked politicians describe as 'misguided' and 'uncooperative' which meant they could not have their way in fixing deals. Of course, it has to be acknowledged that 'being practical' is walking the tightrope. And the city loses in the bargain.
The Bombay High Court has had to intervene a number of times to instruct the MCGM to perform its task properly. Had the administration led by the commissioner — who is the CEO — been allowed to function, the courts would not have been in the picture. The fact that it has to direct the removal of illegal hoardings, ensure roads are proper, provide water to city slums etc. from time to time are reasons enough.
The chief minister had to give 15 days to the civic body to fill up the potholes, a thing it ought to have done in the normal course, is reason enough for dissolving the civic body.
If you have followed the various high court orders you would know what I mean. For instance, it fell upon the same court to ask that city agencies – including the MCGM – prepare a ‘holistic’ policy to reduce road congestion. The civic body had to be told!
It would be better to keep the politicians out till the city comes back to a semblance of a well-managed city.