How do we end this corruption?

#IndiaAgainstCorruption           #demonitization-will-end-corruption!

Below pictures capture the open loot and waste of public money that is being carried out across Mumbai in brazen public view. Footpath after footpath is seeing this.

The current type of paver blocks in perfectly usable condition are being removed and the new square kind are being put. A footpath which could have easily lasted for five more years is pulled apart.

More than the functioning of the BMC it is an insight into the poor capability of citizens even after so many years at being able to intervene in the simplest of public issues.

Not just waste of public money this is a waste of precious natural resources. If not those in the India Against Corruption side then those who fight for the environment and sand mining and forests etc. should have been moved by the sight of what is going on and done something. People move across the city with a smooth glazed vision.

It is easier to talk about big scams because then you have to only speak and do nothing. Or talk about big issues like the Shivaji statue because then you are flowing with the flow and part of the latest fad and talking point.

I used to scoff at those who participated in IAC in Mumbai, the idea of Jan Lokpal Bill, the naive enthusiasm around Anna Hazare. I would then challenge people to look into just MCGM and apply their energies there than the national level. The movement was another instance of flowing with the latest fad. Few of the people who participated have any self ability to address any issue (hyperlocal) or provide their energy and resource for anything which is not a national talking point.

Now the fad is demonetization will knock the wind out of corruption. Sure. Whats happening on the footpaths is plain blatant corruption in front of naked eyes, not hidden away. Whether the paver blocks or the grills, a whole racket within BMC is siphoning of public money through these expenditures, from politicians to officials and of course the contractor is only the medium who gets his commission for doing all the dirty work.

How will demonetization knock the wind of this corruption?

Let BJP leaders beginning from the PM and CM (since there is much agreement there that demonetization is the solution to corruption) swear on the Gita (Mein Gita ki saugandh kha kar…) or on an idol of Ram or on the shivling that none in the ranks of BJP has benefitted from these fake and shabby contracts?

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Airport Pre-paid cabs and the Taxi aggregators

Last weeks two pre-paid taxi rides from two big airports brought out starkly some concerns and questions about regulating the taxi sector, which seems to have become so important with the emergence of taxi aggregators.

In the first ride, I got off New Delhi airport Terminal 1 D at 1:15 am in the night and with my phone battery discharged was forced to stop by the pre-paid taxi window. For  Rs. 250 I was handed a green and pink slip for a trip to a hotel close by. I was asked to show the slip to an attendant close by who after some confusion about which vehicle I should get into pointed me in the direction of a ram shackle Maruti Omni, which turned out to be non AC and then I also noticed another passenger get into the same car as well from the other door.

That particular night was a crazy one with inclement weather at Delhi having completely thrown off gear flight schedules. The other passenger seemed equally tired and without much application of mind we both adjusted, more so because it was a 10  min ride. The driver was a cocky one, who seemed to know both the hotels and was confident that you could name any hotel in Delhi and he could reach us there. It was one racy high speed drive in a ramshackle vehicle.

So two people paid Rs.250 to receive the drop service of an individual taxi but were accommodated into one ramshackle one. This is as per regulation?

The second incidence was at Mumbai Domestic Airport. I came out late night. Saw a large line at the Meru counter. There was another newly opened counter of some Sai Travels, which offered a rate of Rs. 750 for the cab, which obviously was atrociously high on any benchmark. Any fare regulation here?

I could see an Uber cab far away on the app and no Ola cab. I decided to go for the pre-paid cab. For Rs. 350 I was again handed a receipt with a vehicle number I was to board. On coming to the location where the cool cabs are parked I was told that the taxi allotted to me had left and was asked by one of the drivers to inform the security person there who in turn went back to the counter and got another booking. There was some issue with that booking as well but then another of the drivers who had been noticing this back and forth asked me to come along and ushered me into his vehicle. It was a cool cab, Santro, with greasy upholstery and some of the fixtures on the door panel broken.

What began was a very risky high speed ride which left me with a feeling of having leapt of a cliff. The driver was leaning over the steering wheel as if that would contribute additional acceleration to the vehicle beyond what he was getting by putting his foot on the pedal. In the beginning of the drive after joining the highway he opened the door at high speed to empty his paan and tobacco full mouth. Immediately after that he edged out another vehicle in high speed, who abused him while passing by. I remained quiet at this point.

On another instance on the high way he dangerously manoeuvred a scooter driver who showered him with another set of abuses. At this point I had to indicate to him that I was in absolutely no hurry and so what exactly was the point in driving so unsafe. He replied that I might not be in a hurry but he clearly was. In an aggregator cab I would have given such a driver a single star and in the comments section reported him affecting future rides that he would get. But here there was no redress.

At a time when we discuss road safety in this country the rash driving of both the pre-paid drivers I engaged would have qualified for serious action. But it is instances like these which place poor faith in India’s ability to make any difference to the situation.

The pre-paid cabs at the airports and the cool cabs in Mumbai are run by a nexus of various government officials, not limited to just officials from the Transport Department, political lackeys and the usual mix. The drivers have no fear from the police or the laws about being involved in an accident or breaking traffic rules because who will police the police? They know they will be rescued by the framework under which they operate.

Which brings us to the essential question about what really is the regulation we want in the taxi sector and to what end? Bangalore has just banned Uber.

At all airports aggregator cabs are treated as pariahs even when it is the first choice increasingly for most users of the airports. Why is it that pre-paid taxis which are not the first choice is provided premium positioning at the airports? Are they in any ways safeguarding consumer/commuter interest better than aggregator cabs? Are the transport departments safeguarding commuter interests here?

Yes the basic argument will keep cropping up – that the aggregators are out to kill the competition with their deep discounting and once there is no competition left they will hike the rates. So how does that justify a closed nexus of who knows whom operating pre-paid taxi’s at all Indian airports? How are their rates determined and what are the service level standards? Is observing some archaic clause of Motor Vehicles Act all that is to regulating taxi services? Are the same authorities which are breathing down aggregators as interested in regulating pre-paid taxis and many other facets of the taxi trade or transport governance for that matter? Is regulating the aggregators at the airports all about protecting the business model of pre-paid taxis?

 

Why the Bombay HC order banning construction is stupid

The Bombay High Court has again passed some kind of an order prohibiting the municipal corporation from giving permissions for construction of any new building because of its inability to handle the waste crisis being faced by Mumbai. The media will be reluctant to capture my thoughts in quotes but I do have the freedom (hopefully and the tolerance of the Judges) to say it on my own blog post that the court order is totally stupid. It might have been passed with some other purpose in mind but not for solving the waste issue.

There is no relationship between additional construction and the current waste management crisis. Managed well, even if the garbage generated doubles there would still be no need for the current type of dumping grounds and only a fraction of land required for a single scientific land fill. To re iterate, if today Mumbai is generating 10,000 tonnes of waste and we have a crisis, then handled my way ( yes I will say my way) Mumbai can generate 20,000 tonnes of waste per day and I will assure closure of Deonar by 2020 and lush green parks and playgrounds on the same site by 2030. Let the buildings keep coming up and generating more waste. Open challenge to the Bombay HC and MCGM.

If I can show you ten buildings which are not sending any waste to Deonar today then I can very easily (with resources which are all being charred by MCGM currently) make 100,000 buildings also not send any waste to Deonar or any other dump. That is the key aspect, which makes the current order look so stupid.

If there is a ONE BIG co-relation it is between the failure of the Bombay HC in carrying out contempt proceedings for non-compliance of grand orders passed on waste management issues in the past 15 years by its own self. Something tells me that it would be expecting too much for the Judges or the Court to be doing that. If only the Judges who have passed this order, studied orders passed by their predecessors over the past 10-15 years – and more notably those by Justice Chandrachud and decided to initiate contempt proceedings against all the IAS officers who have handled or currently handle the relevant departments then it would have made more impact.

Just when did we last see the Court prosecute any senior official or politicians for any of its PIL orders in the past? PILs have become a joke. Only blind worshiping bhakts of the judicial system have faith in PILs because their blind belief enables them to not stray their looks and look at the reality.

Fine non-complying buildings Rs. 3000 for every instance of non-segregation back to back and the most stubborn and wealthy of buildings will end up complying. If MCGM is incapable, incompetent or insincere in implementing MSW 2000 then let them say so, let the Court take cognizance of it and lets talk ahead. But lets not waste time with these kind of stupid orders. Have a look at this public advertisement by MCGM in 2001 here

Materials below for those who might have missed them before or those whose eyes only keep glazing over all the evidence.

What a zero waste building looks like at this link

Suggestions to the MCGM for SWM in DP 2014 at this video

The Desire to do Good versus the Desire to be in Power

Towards the last few days of 2014 I found myself sitting through what seems to be a standard (excruciating) discussion on any progressive waste management project. I was left pondering about a number of aspects. It will be 20 years now that I have been pursuing the issue of better waste management for Mumbai and after pursuing 20 years of idealism and do good-ism still going through some same trials and tribulations and challenges made me ponder about what really is going on.

Here I am sitting with absolute crystal clarity about how to go about the project with a clear idea of how much effort the municipal corporation should be putting in along with creating a budget and hiring the right people et all and all that I get to hear is how one should be twisting and turning the project to avoid back lash from vested interests well entrenched in the corporation who would not like to see waste reduction at source happening or even feel threatened for a perceived change in power structure.

Beyond a point the conversation made me realise how in the same period that I have been stubbornly, consistently and almost foolishly desiring to do good for the cities environment (through SWM being one of them), to achieve multiple goals of

  1. Better utilisation of the tax payers money,
  2. of reduced use of fossil fuels in unnecessarily following a pick and dump method for (mis)managing waste,
  3. of reducing the foreign exchange burden from running trucks on imported fossil fuels,
  4. of reducing congestion on the roads from unnecessary trucks trips,
  5. of reducing air pollution from the movement of the trucks and also the burning of waste on dumping grounds,
  6. off reduced green house gases from all of the above

During this same time there is another set of people whose behaviour has also been very consistent and they have a far greater success rate to show than it seems I ever will. People who may or may not have a desire to do good – to achieve the above goals – but most certainly have a consistent desire to amass more and more power and wealth. This is the politicians of Mumbai. Some of them are MPs, some MLAs, others Councillors with ambitions of becoming MLAs and MPs.

Beyond a point almost everybody on my side of the table has had the same foolish behaviour and faces the same fate.

Any politician who has been associated with the municipal corporation and more specifically with the solid waste management issue since last two decades or more or even a lot less has seen a consistent rise in his career (I cant think of a her) over this time period. Activists and the do-gooders still have the same struggling conversations of how to generate resources for even small pilots. During the same time any counterpart politician has seen himself lord over ever increasing budgets of the municipal corporation, with no shortage of opportunities to create contracts and deals to fill their coffers and be able to generate funds for their rise up the power ladder, from being powerful as a Councillor to MLA to MP. Being able to create the necessary funds and infrastructure to have office and staff and communication and travel and more budgets. All resources that the do-gooders have not been able to ever generate any funds for; you can find them still having the same frustrating conversations about finding one full time person and a desk and a cupboard to store material and of families who are fed up with their pursuits.

Those desirous of being in power do not have to go about begging for funds and donations. They have large hearted people willing to fund them or they have become experts at extracting money at knife point. The same industry or business person, who will torture a do-gooder for making a donation will willingly pay up to a threatening politician. After being in power the politician has access to vast reserves of public money, which is also like the public willing to write a cheque to them.

On the worst affected end of the spectrum you have do-gooders who decided to get into the business end and ended up destroying their wealth completely. None of the politicians and IAS officers and other officials who fudged contracts, lied through their teeth (even in courts on oath), cheated and bribed and worse find themselves in the same fate. They are more powerful and wealthy and even if affected in some cases not destroyed.

Another very consistent behaviour pattern has been of the educated middle class of the city – possibly even more determined than the do-gooders or the politicians, to exhibit almost pathological levels of indifference and complete mastery to justify the same. I am very clear that the behaviour of the middle class creates the base on which politicians build their castles and the do-gooders scuffle around in their shanties.

There will never be a Swaccha Bharat in a country where the atma is so aswaccha. Desiring to do good for the country never pays, desiring to be in power (on the message of doing good) almost certainly does. Please do leave in the comments section all your wonderful excuses of being so pathologically indifferent and uninvolved.

Dust in BKC, MMRDA’s paranoia, stupid rules and feudal high handedness in ‘smart’ BKC

Crazy dust levels are a bane in Mumbai, posing severe health hazards besides making the city look no different from the situation in villages and Tier 2 and 3 cities and robbing it of sophistication. This post is about the ridiculous way construction sites are running in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), the pride of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and completely governed by them. There is absolute violation of all environmental rules about dust management and how construction sites should operate. Rules and techniques are clearly there to have zero dust around construction sites as I have recorded in photos from Hong Kong in the second part of this post. It is interesting to see how the who’s who and so educated of BKC go about seeing this on a daily basis and do nothing.

Earlier in the year Mumbai Mirror had carried a story Somebody call Bob the builder! on the same subject and I was quoted as under

Mass transport expert and environment activist Rishi Aggarwal says it’s just callousness on the part of various agencies that leads to the kind of mess that Mumbai finds itself today. “There is never going to be a point where a city is done with all development work. But does that mean we will have to put up with this chaos forever? The way out is strict enforcement of norms,” he said.

Today I was invited to give a byte for a video film on Mithi and asked to come to Bandra Kurla Complex. Similarly invited was my friend and free lance journalist Nidhi Jamwal and since we stay close by I joined her in her car. Since we reached a bit early we decided to move around and get the Sunday feel of BKC.

Along the way Nidhi had her first look at the pathetic cycling tracks launched with much fanfare by MMRDA three years back and photographed them. But that is a separate topic of discussion.

Moving towards the Mithi we passed the point on the map shown as BKC 1 where we passed the first dust site and I took photos with a bit of caution because I had already seen the security stir up even seeing the car stop. Moving ahead we came to the road behind the Dhirubhai Ambani School. It is an isolated stretch with very less traffic and here I again saw a large amount of dust and truck trails on the road. This time I was annoyed and decided to get down and record this properly.

Even as I had just started taking the photos a jeep came in from the opposite side filled with 5-6 men. The jeep stopped by our car and the  men started jumping out and rushing in typical intimidating style. They asked me to immediately stop taking photos since photography was strictly prohibited in the area. At this point I got aggressive and asked them who were they and who has made the rules to which they answered that they were security kept by MMRDA  and it is them who has made the rule. Any point about the dust etc. was lost on them as was my shouting that I will be showing these pictures to the Metropolitan Commissioner tomorrow. I decided to call up Mr. Dilip Kawathkar MMRDAs Joint Project Director who confirmed that yes there was a prohibition on taking photos and permissions have to be taken from a certain Mr. Wankhede who I presume is the person mentioned here and here

This is bizarre and nothing short of feudal. This is a public property and the streets can certainly not be part of a photography prohibition. As a citizen activist I am continuously taking photos of the governments negligence in providing even the most basic of infrastructure and amenities to the citizens. This helps in redresal. Now even photos cant be taken?! Dereliction of duty in the first place and intimidation if documenting it.

And then you see these kind of cheesy stories on Smart BKC? Hong Kong also has rapacious capitalists but they have some interest in a clean and well managed HK.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/bkc-is-mumbais-new-smart-address-says-boman-rustom-irani/articleshow/42324892.cms

Or these pies in the sky – talking cake when people dont have bread.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/MMRDA-to-tap-tech-for-smart-BKC/articleshow/33625023.cms

Firstly the way the men were traveling and the intimidating manner in which they approached me is completely unbecoming of how an agency like MMRDA should be keeping security people for any purpose. They looked more like the goons and henchmen kept by illegal mining barons or like some militia of the kind of ISIS images we are seeing on TV. Knowing the land politics of BKC and the politicians-developer nexus which controls it, it is quite clear that institutions are just a nice front to show behind which feudal diktats and controls operate.

Secondly,what is this nonsense about not photographing even on the roads? In July I was hauled up by the ultra-paranoid security at the US Consulate even as I was standing on the footpath outside their building and photographing the diamond bourse with the upcoming convention center in the foreground. Nothing to do with the consulate, nor were they in the frame anywhere but still I was brought in by the security, made to sit for an hour while procedure and deletion of photos took place.

In 2012 I visited Hong Kong for the first time and took photos of the West Kowloon Terminus from a nearby skywalk, which I have carried subsequently in this post. Not once was I stopped, there just was no intimidation in the air. I could see police and guards at some frequency but their job was not to intimidate common citizens. The Peoples Republic of China was not paranoid in spite of being an autocracy and here we have MMRDA – quite symptomatic of the bogus two paisa democracy that India is. This is of course the private estate of some of the best known politicians and builders in the city.

I will stand vindicated when the next big terrorist attack takes place successfully at BKC in spite of all this ridiculous paranoia, intimidation and assault on liberty. As I keep mentioning to all these people that those who will do the damage will have the best of images taken without these jokers even getting a whiff. Of course the innocent will suffer with no effect on these jokers but then did somebody say something about how evil benefits from the silence of the good?

Thirdly, anybody interested in labour rights and the conditions of construction workers need not be holding up for whats happening in Qatar

Woes of India’s Labour in Gulf

Sushma Swaraj vows to work for migrant Indian workers in Gulf nations

Sushma Swaraj could well come and champion for the rights of those who are working at the sites in BKC and especially the large one near the concrete plant marked as BKC 3 in the map below.

Labour could be seen living and working in the most unhygienic and completely unpleasant surroundings. Forget getting into private areas, BKC is completely under MMRDA and consequently Government of Maharashtra jurisdiction. I this the commitment to the various conventions and policies that GoM is party to? We were moving around in an AC car so we are unaffected but the moment you step out is hell.

This is how they do it in Hong Kong. This is the site of West Kowloon Terminus which I visited in March 2012. This a government of China project contracted to private engineering firms. The highest work area management standards could be seen as borne in pictures below.

Take the issue up and make noise about work area management rules at all construction sites. Making Mumbai dust free is possible if only citizens are interested in such an outcome.

And if you can take some more

Sincere City not Smart City

Smart City is the new lingo being banded about in context of Indian cities. It seems to be the Mantra for cities for the new Modi government in place. Having been involved with improvements in the quality of urbanisation primarily in Mumbai for a fairly long time I think foremost the most critical and essential requirement for India’s urbanisation today is sincerity and not all the technological imagery that is being bandied about. The existing top 50 cities and urban agglomerations of India are completely capable of delivering the highest quality of life for a significant amount of India’s population if they are governed well and with sincerity. When there is sincerity and integrity then the right technological solutions flow effortlessly; in the absence of integrity it will be impossible to apply the right solutions to existing Indian cities or build new ones..

Today what is stopping the existing Indian cities and agglomerations from delivering is the complete lack of transparency and accountability in the way they are governed. Public money is squandered in unaccounted projects and there are blatant manipulations of various urban policies to benefit vested interests while millions suffer a poorer quality of life. Urban areas for good or bad will be the centers of economic and human development in the foreseeable future and yet what is happening in Indian cities currently is a complete betrayal of national interest.

It is more than a decade now that I have been involved with urban issues in Mumbai as an activist making noise about irregularities and pushing for the right governance construct in which decisions should be taken. While there is progress, overall there is no improvement in the quality of life. I will pick examples of gross insincerity from a few of my involvements. None of this is limited to Mumbai; I follow other cities in India and being in touch with activists and technical experts in those cities suggests it is the same tale of woe across all the top metros of India.

Let us start with whether we have smart citizens in the first place? In all my interactions over the years with that segment of people which consists of the audience or ‘market’ for improved cities I have found in most a singular lack of understanding about how their municipal corporations work, simple understanding about budgets, various committees which decide on multiple issues in the city and the way these committees sanction public money for various projects.

Civil society members are squeamish about discussing the conduct or character of the elected representatives and senior officials who take decision not wishing any personal confrontation and hoping things will somehow change by talking in generalities.

If this is the case with budgets, the case with understanding public policy is far worse. The numerous ways in which the working of a city can be distorted with decisions about how to use land or how much to build on each unit of land or the kind of transport to be encouraged is beyond the understanding of even the well educated. How can we have a smart city without smart residents? The politicians are perfectly happy with such dumb residents who can easily be swayed by ‘smart’ rhetoric. A smart city would be one where at least ten percent of its residents are smart enough to understand the ABC of governance.

The city gives its purse strings to the incompetent and the downright diabolical but will not make available a paisa to those with integrity and passion and enormous competency. Is such a smart city? Is it a function of technology to provide your citizens with information about how you have used their money for which you are only a care taker as an elected representative or an IAS officer who is trained to supply good governance? Those who were sincere could provide that information even before the computer or typewriter was invented, those who are insincere will not do so in the day and age of ERP software and smart phone apps.

Mumbai’s pathetic roads is a good place to discuss next. You cannot drive for two minutes without having to slow down on a bumpy stretch. Even some arterial roads where the surface will be good will see a few sections which are broken. If not anything then almost all the traffic junctions of the city have the most potholed sections reducing the throughput during signal cycle and causing traffic to pile up during peak hours. This is leading to high levels of stress for the citizens, wear and tear of vehicles, high productivity loss for some of the most hard working people in the country, increased vehicular emissions and enormous fuel wastage which impacts our foreign exchange position.

Year after year crores of public money are spent on filling potholes and fixing broken stretches which in no time reappear. The whole process is nebulous and many a person in the administration and the contractors have been able to build a fancy lifestyle for themselves from this racket. Here too smart gets bandied. There is a lovely lingo of various technologies to fix potholes, machines from Germany and Austria to be imported, fancy processes and all that. Had there been sincerity then the nagar sevaks would have been delivering rather than going for visits abroad to get the right ‘smart’ technology for Mumbai.

Then there are vendors and bureaucrats who offer to sell ‘smart’ IT solutions to monitor traffic congestion using GPS and data from cell towers and cameras and what not. They are a separate set of solution providers unconcerned with the road department and how it functions. There is no integrated unified planning for transport in the city. Every cartel finds its own niche in controlling a part of public money and seeks to ‘optimally’ leverage the control. It is these cartels which are now firmly in control of the smart city propaganda. Is anybody talking sincere city?

Now the latest fancy project of the politicians and bureaucrats is to develop a 36km coast road along the western coast of Mumbai at a cost of Rs. 9000 crores which they are touting as the one final solution to all of Mumbai’s traffic congestion problems. The report prepared by the municipal corporation reeks of insincerity, makes no pretense of hiding its biases and violates all basis norms of report writing. Just so as to defuse the opposition from the sustainable transport advocacy groups the same bureaucrats who have sabotaged a BRTS for Mumbai are even dangling a carrot that they will run a BRTS on this corridor.

Would it not be smart to have your 2000 kms of road network in good shape and improve throughput by a minimum of 20 percent from the same roads rather than spend Rs. 9000 crores on a 36 km coast road with a false promise that it will solve all of the cities traffic congestion problems? Is it not insincerity and cheating when you do not look into the travails of 12 million people as they go about using the existing road network? And the money and other resources are all there.

All of America is now realising what a public finance nightmare it is to create funds for renewing highways and all those flyover which looked so cool and ‘smart’ in the 60’s. America has the luxury of printing as much money as it wants to fund its infrastructure and is still not able to put it all together. In the 21st century smart would be defined as learning from the mistakes of the 20th century. Smart would be what is happening in Europe today and the incredibly experience rich public transport and non motorised transport infrastructure that is coming up in its top 50 cities. All of this is happening with a lot of technology but determined by a smart vision founded on a strong base of integrity.

A smart city is one which can understand terms like mixed land use and sustainable mobility and which can have the vision before the technology as was again and again exhorted at a conference in July by a team of technocrats from EU nations who had been flown in to give some insight to Indian bureaucrats for suggestions on how to solve the waste and other environmental problems of Mumbai. The bureaucrats not surprisingly were looking only for technology and could care much less about all this vision nonsense.

Smart is seen to be a function of technology, of vendors who can supply the right gadgets and IT enabled services and of big budget spends. Thus you will have dustbins fitted with RFID tags and weight sensor which will monitor when a dustbin is full and send out a radio signal to a collection van to collect before it starts over spilling. Not mixing waste and doing high level of segregation at source is not advertised because that will affect the business of those companies which in cahoots with politicians have the contracts to transport waste to dumping grounds. Solid waste management is one area where this fraud of ‘smart’ and technology has been played to the hilt. Mumbai itself has seen itself cheated by its officials and elected representatives in the name of using technology to alleviate the city’s garbage problems.

The Smart agenda has existed around for sometime now. As any of the biggies in the space – IBM, Siemens, CISCO and the like – about how much business have they got? Completely non-descript low key companies make the mark in whatever IT work goes on. I am not saying for once that small and medium enterprises should be discriminated against. All that I am saying is that we need the best value for our money and merit should win over any other parameter. Here the space is crowded with companies which win in an L1 contract and after tying up with some front company of a politicians son. Is this smart?

I hope the PMO and the MOUD will start an aggressive agenda to first bring sincerity into the way Indian cities are governed.

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This blog post has also appeared as article on Scroll.in

http://scroll.in/article/672826/India-doesn%27t-need-smart-cities.-It-needs-smart-citizens

Bullshit at St. Martins Road

St. Martins lane in Bandra (W) is providing a clear insight into what is currently wrong with Mumbai’s planning:

1) Arrogance of the municipal corporation and other authorities, which are supposedly meant to serve the large public interest but are more conducive to serve narrow vested interests.

2) Planning and decision making being taken over by a few officials, elected officials and business interests who have little or no concern for the larger consequences of the decisions they take.

2) No voice for the average citizen on how he or she would like their city and neighbourhood to be developed

(There is a picture album below the text portion which gives you an idea of the lane)

Some newspaper articles below to give an overview of the issue

Road widening irks Bandra residents – Times of India, 8th December 2013

Tree Cut, Heritage structure to be demolished to widen Bandra Road – Hindustan Times, 8th December, 2013

BMC bows to residents’ protests, may not widen St Martin’s Road in Bandra – DNA, 11th December 2013

BMC will forcibly demolish walls to widen Bandra road – 27th December, 2013

Here is the location for the road

Some salient points to the matter

  1. St. Martins Road is a shady beautiful and quiet small road in Bandra (W) which has a few beautiful bungalows from an age before. It’s quaint peaceful nature is a rarity now and needs to be preserved and enhanced, not destroyed.
  2. These are the kind of streets and lanes, through which we love walking in Europe and America. Are we in India incapable of having any aesthetic sense? Is the municipal corporation blind to how they will destroy the beauty of the street by carrying out the road widening?
  3. The lane does not have the kind of traffic flow that is being made out. BMC is sharing no data to validate its claims. Just issuing threatening notices. Licensed goondas.
  4. Parking cannot be allowed on both sides in any condition. BMC needs to regulate that first to improve traffic flow.
  5. The ambiance and the aesthetics of the streets also matter.
  6. The manner in which the exercise is being carried out is uncivil and undemocratic and unbecoming of the municipal corporation of a city like Mumbai. There are clear indications that the intention of the exercise is not to improve traffic flow (of which there is little in the first place) and more to use the new width for angular parking of vehicles. Restaurants nearby have valet parking and a wider road will provide more capacity for angular parking. Should the beauty of the lane, its livability, its heritage look all be destroyed for the sake of parking for a few vehicles?
  7. Buildings where the walls have already been pushed behind by a meter or so, cars instead of being parked parallel are now parked angular, thus in effect allowing exactly the same amount of road as before available for traffic flow.