BMC pothole in Mumbai has killed a woman biker. This is not a first such incident in India’s finance capital. And not just in Mumbai, Municipal bodies across the country are in a mess. Marred by corruption, poor management and petty politics for decades, they often fail to provide basic facilities like door-to-door garbage collection and keeping the city roads free of potholes – be it Mumbai or Delhi. These problems exist despite numerous media exposes and government’s plan to develop 100 smart cities. Forget smart cities, India doesn’t even have 100 clean or pothole-free cities.
On Sunday, a 34-year-old woman, who was leading a group of bikers, was run over by a truck as she tried to avoid a pothole on Jawhar-Dahanu highway in Mumbai. Days before the death of the woman biker, a private FM channel RJ Malishka landed in trouble for poking fun on Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s monsoon preparedness. Mumbai city, like many other cities of the country, is dotted by potholes, thanks to the BMC, which is considered to be one of the richest Municipal bodies in Asia.
Centre’s own report early this year said as many as 10,876 people were killed across the country due to potholes in 2015, while in 2014 the corresponding number was 11,106. A ministry of transport official had told India Today in March that the maximum number of fatalities were reported in Maharashtra, which is home to 10 smart cities including three in Mumbai – Navi Mumbai, Thane and Greater Mumbai.
According to government’s official definition of smart city, “the purpose of Smart Cities Mission is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology, especially technology that leads to Smart outcomes.”
The “core infrastructure elements” in a smart city include adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation, including solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport. Most of these “elements” are maintained by municipal bodies. The present situation of municipal bodies in the country make it hard to believe that they can help realise these smart city objectives, though the latter would be run by so-called CEOs, who would never be untouched by the dynamics of local politics.
In Delhi alone, PTI reported in May 2016, there were 1,332 cases of corruption in the three municipal corporation – South MCD, North MCD and East MCD in three years. As many as 79 officials were booked by the CBI and Anti-Crime Bureau.
The poor performance of municipal bodies has been in news recently across the country — be it garbage problem in Delhi and Mumbai or froth formation in lakes of Bengaluru or Hyderabad. When municipal bodies are failing to carry out basic tasks, wouldn’t it apt to hand them over to accountable private bodies? In their present situation, can we even think that our cities would become smart or become swachh soon?