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Repair the City
Vinod Anand | 10 Aug 2013

Repair the City (Vinod Anand) The election to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the country’s richest civic body, is significant for more reasons than one. High-pitched civic elections — spanning 10 municipal corporations and 27 zilla parishads across Maharashtra -are being billed as a crucial political contest between the UPA and the NDA, a bellwether for the state’s assembly elections in 2014. The tussle over the BMC leadership is being fought primarily between the Congress-NCP combine and Shiv Sena-BJP, which currently control the BMC. An equally formidable contender is the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which could well end up spoiling the Shiv Sena’s chances. But the real challenges of the BMC polls lie beyond political brinkmanship. They are articulated in the issues that impact the day-to-day lives of Mumbaikars. Let’s not forget that Mumbai’s basic infrastructure and service delivery are in an alarming state of decline today. Consider the city’s population density, its acute shortage of affordable housing, perennial traffic snarls, difficult commute and rutted roads. In stark contrast to Dethi, Mumbai’s major infrastructure projects —the Metro, Navi Mumbai international airport, Dharavi redevelopment scheme—have hardly taken off. While Mumbai’s governance has steadily nosedived, the city has been under the thumb of a politician- real estate mafia cashing in on land shortage. Extortionist land rates have threatened to neutralize the benefits of commercial activity. In this dismal situation, the BMC polls need to pave the way for anew culture of professional governance. What Mumbai as well as other cities across India urgently need is an autonomous mayoral system, with empowered professional civic authorities. This can go a long way in redressing a city’s ills.