Blog

03 August 2013

Abhishek Mishra on: Mumbai roads

Try to keep the faith if you’re unhappy about the condition of our roads. Our councillors have the answers to your woes

Abhishek Mishra
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No·lu·tion: A means of employing a spurious solution to ensure that a problem persists perennially.

As I write this, the monsoon rains have not come down yet and the Mumbai municipal corporation (the BMC) has unanimously voted in favour of banning bikini-clad mannequins from our streets. I thought this was more of an advisory to help shopkeepers keep the bikinis out of the rain, so I strongly disagreed with it. I mean the whole point of a bikini is that it’s supposed to get wet, right?

As it turns out, my inference was wrong. The move, councillors believe, will help reduce sex crimes against women. Ah ha! That I can understand. I mean, it is an intelligent reason. City villains like Molester Manu and Rapist Romeo must be going “Gee, shucks! How do we warm up for our vocation now?”

The final straw, according to the councillor who mooted the proposal, was when students from a girl’s college told her that they were harassed on the street by men who were turned on by the “obscene” dummies.

Now a lot of you may think that prosecuting such harassers would be the proper thing to do, especially since sexual harassment is still a crime in this country. But then you’d be treating the symptom and not curing the disease. Swift criminal prosecution of sex offenders is a solution. And let’s face it, as a people, what we’re looking for are nolutions.

This is just another instance of city councillors exercising their intellect. The same corporation has been responsible for similar nolutions in the past. The state of roads in this city is an obvious example of their talent. Sure, I concede that the BMC is not the only agency responsible for roads here. Agencies like MSRDC, MbPT, PWD, MMRDA and other IDIOTS are responsible for some roads too. But as an organisation with the largest number of roads under its jurisdiction, the BMC has been at the forefront of implementing lasting nolutions.

In January this year I’d written an objective column about the state of Mumbai’s roads. I’d concluded by saying that, “Good roads may be desirable, but bad roads are profitable”. Many people thought I was being cynical, or worse, sardonic. But I was dead serious. A quick search on the Net will qualify that statement of mine. An article published as recently as 31 May in The Times of India states that contractors were paid more to fill potholes than to build roads. Let me rephrase that in some detail – it cost the corporation more to fill up potholes per square metre than it would have to have the same road area concretised. See what a brilliant nolution that was?

Still, citizens never learn. An article by Geetanjali Minhas on governancenow.com gives us some revealing figures. Of the 92,714 complaints the BMC received in 2012, the number of complaints about bad roads was 29,852. This number was way more than complaints on any other issue. So what was the corporation’s nolution? The article explains beautifully and I quote here: “In 209 ward meetings held between March and December 2012, councillors raised a total of 672 questions... Of these 672 queries, a mind-boggling 127 related to renaming of roads or chowks... so every fifth question raised by ward councillors during their crucial ward meetings related
to the renaming of some road or chowk!”

The nolution for incidents of sexual harassment is to remove bikini-clad mannequins from the streets of Mumbai. The nolution for incidents of rape, as the wise old men of Haryana have told us, is to ban chowmein. Similarly, the nolution for Mumbai’s bad roads is to rename them. Empirical evidence suggests that it is a successful strategy. We changed Bombay to Mumbai and notice how everything has been perfect ever since.

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