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Mr Deshmukh, is this how you've prepared Mumbai?

By Archana Masih
June 01, 2006 15:02 IST
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Dear Mr Deshmukh*:

You should have been at the mouth of S V Road in Bandra on Wednesday night. Because if you were, you would have seen all this -- up, close and personal on the first day the rains hit Mumbai.

  • You would seen more than knee deep water with a massive traffic jam around you.
  • You would have seen a young mother roll up her trousers and begin an hour-long trudge back home to an ailing child after a full day's work.
  • You wouldn't have known where to take a U-turn to get out of the waterlogging because water would be swirling high above the road dividers.
  • You would have seen your able traffic policemen at the SV Road-Linking Road signal, directing traffic onto the same flooded SV Road -- yes, the same one with knee-then-thigh-high water from where you just returned -- instead of telling drivers to take other un-flooded routes.
  • You would have left office for home at 7 pm and have had to return to office to avoid being stranded for God knows how long.

If this is how you've worked upon preparing this city to avoid the catastrophe of 26/7 last year -- I shudder.

Actually, I don't know what to make of the still dug up roads. One poor driver who couldn't make out that the road was being widened just rolled off with his car into that gap and was stuck.

Rains disrupt Mumbai

I saw your picture on rediff, where you along with the other stalwart -- BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation Commissioner Johny Joseph -- were surveying the Mithi river, the encroachments of which led to the floods in the suburbs last year.

Tuesday was also that big day when you inaugurated the state's disaster management cell which I hear is plush, state-of-the-art and what not. It has hotlines to the Met Dept, the offices of the police commissioner, traffic commissioner etc.

I wonder what communication was passed to the traffic cops on their walkie-talkies when traffic was at a standstill on the first day of the rain. Leave alone warning drivers not to go down the badly flooded route, there was one cop who shouted at a poor taxi driver who tried reversing and made sure the driver took the flooded SV Road instead.

A look at the morning newspapers would have told you how the disaster management cell functioned last night. Far from satisfactory, right, Mr Deshmukh?

My colleague tells me that no sooner did it start raining heavily her telephone lines went dead. Her cable television connection also collapsed. A teenager in Andheri had been calling her father in office asking him to call Reliance Energy to inquire when the electricity would be restored in her home. The lights only came back at 1 pm; in some areas at 6.45 am this morning. The local trains were running late, taxis made a quick buck at the expense of harried commuters and people were again wading through dirty water to get back home. Ask any Mumbaikar and they would furnish you with their own rain story of last night.

If you were affected by the breakdown in civic services and the rain on Wednesday night, Tell us!

Doesn't all this remind you of that same story all over again? And I'm not ranting like a crabby middle class citizen, the ones you politicos think only know how to criticise. I know Bombay struggles with these problems every monsoon, but you had reassured us that this year it would be different. That this time we wouldn't have to suffer like last time because 26/7 had taught some hard lesson and you and your government were going to make sure that this city does not crumble again.

It's just day one, Mr Deshmukh, and I feel your promises are hollow. It took one spell of rain to wash all those tall claims away. What a shame.

This morning -- yes, I finally made it home by midnight -- I saw 3 bulldozers cleaning up the Mithi river. Whatever it is they were doing, don't you think it's too late? You had almost a year to get your act together, clearly you haven't.

A Mumbaikar

*Vilasrao Deshmukh is the chief minister of Maharashtra state

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