Sunday, August 07, 2005

Maharashtra and Mumbai - and the Mess

Failing the People

The Seat of apathy and ineptitude

The Chaos and the Garbage symbolizing the Administration

The disaster that struck Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra on the 26th of July and the days after that, has shown the Government in the State to be completely unworthy of the people's faith and trust.

It took just two days of heavy rains to wash away any claims the Government of the State and local authority in Mumbai, the Municipal Corporation, might have had about efficiency and to bring to the fore the mess that both these exalted administrations have created over the years.

While the initial inaction and stupor on the first day could, perhaps, be excused to a very large extent considering the sheer suddenness and scale of the nature's fury and the physical constraints of getting anything or anyone anywhere, what followed was certainly a display of crass ineptitude and absence of clarity of purpose. The actions that were taken displayed an uncoordinated effort by various Government and Municipal authorities without a clear direction and focus. The manner in which the entire effort was organized would not be adequate even in relatively minor eventualities, let alone such a major disaster that happened.

And, if such mishandling was not enough to shake the people's confidence, the various components of the rotten system already saw and started to exploit the opportunity to make a fast buck out of the miseries and sufferings of those affected.

The way in which the relief was distributed selectively, the amount of relief that found its way in the wrong hands and the lack of transparency have exposed the moral insensibility of those in whom people have reposed their faith.

Maharashtra, which has in many ways been a leading State, has disgraced itself by the imperceptive manner in which the Administration has been run, especially in the last few years. Of course, the Chief Minister of the State must carry a lot of the blame for the state of affairs. Vilasrao Deshmukh, though affable and suave and intelligent, did not acquit himself well as a successful Chief Minister in his previous term. He was followed by Sushilkumar Shinde who just could not be moved to do anything worthwhile in the State. Deshmukh has done better in his present term but clearly, what the State needs is a really strong-willed and visionary Chief Minister to pull the State out of the morass that is largely a legacy of his own party. His Deputy R.R. Patil has also been unable to show his mettle during the present crisis. Unfortunately, no other person from either of the coalition partners has the stature, the image or the capability to run the State and for the present, Deshmukh appears to be the only man for the job.

Turning again to the woes of Mumbai, both the State and Municipal Corporation do not seem to have a clue on how a Mega Metropolis like Mumbai should be administered. Nor, for that matter, does the "High Command" of Deshmukh have any idea of what Mumbai is all about. This is clear from the way the one good decision taken by the well-meaning Chief Minister on demolition of the Slums was shot down by remote control by his High Command, humiliating him and leaving him red-faced. The same High Command, when the disaster hit, began to put pressure on him to perform, once again giving directions to do this or that by remote control, after having interfered in his working earlier!

While the Politicians have a public face and have naturally to bear the brunt of the public anger over the mal-administration of the State and Mumbai City, it is high time that the People focus their attention on the faceless bureaucrats too and hold them accountable for their apathy, inertia and rank inefficiency. In a Democracy, the Bureaucracy is a key component of the System. It is the duty of the Civil servants to advise the Ministers and also to execute the decisions of the Government. The recent events have exposed the weakness and inefficiencies of the Bureaucrats who have, for so long, been taking comfort in the belief that if anything went wrong, the blame would always be taken by their Political masters. It is high time that the lethargy and callousness of the Bureaucrats in the State is shaken off by a complete revamp, not by giving extensions to Secretaries as the Government is thinking of doing.

For the present though, Maharashtra and Mumbai, both continue to be in a mess. The only way to change things is for the People to explore every avenue to make the Administration more responsive and responsible. In particular, in case the Government fails to make public a fully audited account of the money receivd and spent on relief and rehabilitation, it would be worthwhile approaching the Judiciary with a Public Interest Suit.


At August 10, 2005, Anonymous M. Fernandes said...

Another striking aspect of the disaster was the lack of communications. As it happened, South Mumbai where the Seats of the Administration - State and Municipal as well as Police- are located, did not get a fraction of the rainfall that the Northern part of Mumbai received. Even in the Northern suburbs, most people did not realize the gravity of what was happening. Therefore, the local officers might not have informed their headquarters properly. I guess, this was also a major reason for inaction on the first day. Thereafter, it was a different story as rightly pointed out by you.

At August 12, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The way the health problems are growing, I think the Media in particular and everyone else, should leave the Administration alone for at least one week and allow them to concentrate on the real work rather than answering irrelevant or repetitive questions all the time.

At August 12, 2005, Anonymous Ramchandra Paranjpye said...

We hear that Congress internal politics is also creating problems for the State Government. They should stop this.


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