For BMC councilors, renaming Mumbai roads key to all civic woes!

Against 92,000-plus civic complaints received from Mumbai residents between March and December 2012, nearly one in every five questions raised in BMC’s ward committee meetings in the same period concerned renaming of roads, finds report

geetanjali

Geetanjali Minhas | April 20, 2013



While the average Mumbaikar fights with more civic issues than this time last year, and are asking more questions of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Council with each passing day, renaming of roads remains the top priority for the elected ward councilors. At least that’s the picture emerging from details of BMC’s ward committee meetings.

A little bit of number crunching would throw more light on the story.

  • Against 60,233 complaints received in the whole of 2011, the BMC ward committees received 92,714 complaints in 2012 — an over-50 percent increase.
  • Against a whopping 29,852 complaints received on bad roads — the maximum by a long shot — the 227 councillors, between them, raised only 100 questions on this crucial issue between March and December 2012, the period in which the details were collated after the local body elections in February last year.
  • In 209 ward meetings held between March and December 2012, the councillors raised a total of 672 questions.
  • Of these 672 queries, a mind-boggling 127 related to renaming of roads, or chowks. Simple arithmetic says every fifth question raised by ward councillors during their crucial ward meetings related to renaming of some road/chowk!

The details were revealed by Praja Foundation’s  report on ‘Working of ward committees in the city of Mumbai and civic problems registered by citizens (2011-12). Released on Wednesday, the report is an eye opener on the silence of the Maximum City’s ward councillors, at least during officials. It says 36 councilors asked only one question in all the meetings in 2012 put together, of which  eight councilors asked a question on naming of roads/chowks. It says 114 councillors raised between two and five questions, and 29 posed  six to 10 questions.

Only three councillors raised more than 10 questions in the 209 ward meetings from March to December last year.

The white paper reveals that 45 elected councilors raised no question (yes, zero question).

This is the fourth successive year that the NGO has released a white paper on civic issues, and Praja officials said the one constant factor over these years has been the councillors’ love for one issue: renaming of roads, which has elicited maximum questions.

Speaking of figures…

According to the white paper, only 30 questions were raised for 16,194 complaints received on drainage problems, 61  were posed for 6,562 complaints on solid waste management, while 47 elicited responses for 6,215 water supply complaints.

Complaints on drainage increased by 58.7 percent — from 10,203 in 2011 to 16,194 in 2012. More complaints were received for leaks in water lines and unauthorised  tapping of water, but compared to water supply shortage, overall water supply complaints decreased  by –(minus)0.3  percent  from 6,231 in 2011 to 6,215 in 2012.

There was a marginal increase of 1.1 percent for complaints relating to solid waste management (SWM) — from 6,489 in 2011 to 6,562 in 2012.  Other complaints saw an increase of 53.9 percent from 60,233 in 2011 to 92,714 in 2012.

R/North ward had the highest number of complaints on roads from 87 in 2011 to 931 in 2012, an increase of 970 percent. Drainage complaints increased from 424 to 1,500 in K/West ward, an increase of 254 percent. In  H/E ward, drainage complaints increased  by 186 percent and SWM by 35 percent; while  G/S ward had the highest increase of 70 percent for SWM.

…And of the sameness

The 74th constitutional amendment act (1992) was brought in to  decentralise and empower local bodies — or grassroots democracy — with additional powers and functions to operate independently at local levels. The ward committees are supposed to take up and address daily issues  of civic amenities like  roads, water supply, drainage and others.

But Praja Foundation’s white paper has found that even after the local body elections in February 2012, the 227 corporators, many of whom seasoned local politicians, found renaming  of roads as the issue of primacy.

Explaining the rise in complaints, Milind Mhaske, the project director of Praja, said: “The number of complaints related to potholed and broken roads increased by 476.6 percent, primarily due to the facility of online registration of complaints through a new mobile application developed by BMC for potholes. This  emphasises the need for technologically advanced, centralised, user-friendly and effective complaint redress system  for other issues as well.”
According to Mhaske, not all complaints received by the civic body are  registered, and a regular third-party complaint audit system  is necessity  for better functioning of the corporation. 

“The key responsibility of all elected representatives is to communicate grievances of their constituents to the MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, or BMC) administration and ensure that complaints are addressed. (In fact) they are elected for precisely that reason,” said Nitai Mehta, founder-trustee, Praja Foundation. “But when over 19 percent of total questions raised (in ward committee meetings) are for renaming of roads, you begin to wonder if our elected representatives are mocking the entire democratic system or just taking their constituents for granted, and perhaps a ride.”
Mumbai city has 24 administrative  wards and 16 ward committees.

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