Mission Mumbai – part 2 : No one in charge

What does it take to make a city function? And what does it take for it to function effectively, efficiently and beautifully? What is the REAL difference?
Buckle your seatbelts as we journey together in a series of articles looking at problems and solutions for Mumbai. Mumbai has now become a seriously dysfunctional city and has lost its capacity to deliver efficient and effective public services. Something needs to be done and soon. 
So, let us start by asking a few key questions.
How much is Mumbai legally empowered to have the ability to think about, let alone take control, of its own future?
We saw in the last blog( http://mayankgandhi05.blogspot.in/2015/09/mission-mumbai-part-1-unworkable.html) that in the tussle for power, the State has created so many parastatal bodies that eventually, Mumbai city is now saddled with a structure that is scandalous and unworkable, to say the least. And that is just the administrative structure. The political structure is worse, which I will take up later.
Generally, the relation between State and Municipal Corporations is India very exploitive. It could probably be due to the legacy of the British that centralized all decision making to control the provinces, or, the greed of the political class to retain all powers.
And what is true of Mumbai is true of all cities in India. But let us see what other major cities around the world are doing?
Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe says “True local autonomy can only be achieved when local governments are able to manage their finances and provide administrative services using their own powers and resources. Tokyo is a fine example of the same. To this end, I believe it essential for authority and revenue sources to be devolved to local governments
The present governing coalition of Germany intends to increase its planned investment programs in Municipalities by 15 billion Euros in the next three years to strengthen municipal local bodies to build and manage roads, schools and public spaces.
Some of China’s cities have similar density and comparable population to Mumbai, and therefore India needs to learn more from China. An erstwhile Maharashtra CM had dreamt of converting Mumbai into a Shanghai, which was a flawed vision for many reasons. But, what we can surely learn from Chinese cities is about decentralization of its local bodies and capacity building of its institutions. Strangely, China has more democracy at the grass root level than India, as local units have more power! China realized that empowered local units would power economy, and therefore it worked consciously for strengthening local governments more also because it has such large areas.
Therefore, we need to relook at the State – Municipal relationship and encourage local governments, in the spirit of decentralization and grass root empowerment, to manage their own affairs and build capacity.
London Metro
The Greater London Authority has responsibility for transportation in London – largely through an organization called “Transport for London”, whose board is completely appointed by the Mayor. And transportation is very widely defined: it includes the buses and the Metro underground, highways and car traffic, cabs and mini-cabs, walking and cycling. The Mayor and Transport for London have the statutory obligation to make sense of how cars and mass-transit, along with cabs and bicycles, create a city-wide transportation system. All it needs is a key fully empowered person to manage and bring in the changes.
All major cities have a position for a key person who can give decisive management, inclusivity, long-term global vision and forward planning and someone whose strong leadership during calamity and disaster could be the difference.  Like Mayor Naheed Nenshi of Calgary, Canada or Mayor Daniel Termont of Ghent city in Belgium or Mayor Tri Rismaharini of Surbaya city in Indonesia or the mayor of Houston, USA -Annise Parker.
So, who is this key person in Mumbai?
    The lame-duck, powerless Mayor?
Does even 1% of Mumbaikars know his/her name ? The mayor is chosen by the ruling party or ruling combine and is just a ceremonial position having a nice bungalow at Shivaji Park, dancing at the finger tips of its Corporators and beholden to their Remote Control sitting in Bandra. The Mayor has so little powers that none of the serious and effective corporators are made Mayor.  By the way, the present Mayor of World Class Mumbai is Ms Snehal Ambekar of Shiv Sena. The highlight of her term is her insistence on using a red beacon on her car, in spite of govt rules denying her the privilege. So much for Mumbai Citizens !!
    The unelected remote controls of all parties?
Image result for raj and uddhavMumbai is the financial capital of the country and Municipal Corporation corruption is the biggest source of fund collection for all parties. Party bosses do not expect too much amount from MLAs and MPs, but there is huge pressure on corporators to give money to the party. No wonder, every corporators, in a few weeks of winning becomes rich, buys at least one SUV and start wearing golden rings, golden chains and in some case golden teeth J. The party bosses, be it the Thackereys or the BJP and Cong top leaders control the workings of Mumbai, its major contracts and its biggest source of money, the builders. There is no vision, save for “Big-Ticket” Engineering solutions – like roads, highways, bridges and fancy schemes. Solutions that have major cut-backs.

               The Municipal Commissioner?
Present and previous MC
Ajay Mehta and S Kunte
The Municipal Commissioner is chosen and managed by a CM who has been elected by MLAs of the State to run the entire state. Most of the time, the CM hails from some far away district of Maharashtra, with little understanding of Mumbai? Most probably, the Municipal Commissioner is an IAS officer from some city, town or village of Maharashtra and not familiar with Mumbai and its issues. He is given so much responsibility and so little power. I was talking to an earlier Municipal commissioner and he was telling me that at least 60% of his working time was spent in the corridors of Mantralaya, attending meetings. Out of the balance time, a major part was spent entertaining demands of the elected corporators. The MC is not an elected person and not accountable to the citizens of Mumbai, but to the State CM.
       None of the above? 

      All of the above?
Let me give a few examples to demonstrate how the lack of a “face” or “key Person” of Mumbai is not just hampering the growth and development of Mumbai, but has created major crisis during times of disaster and emergency.
Rudy Giuliani
When New York was attacked on Sept 11, 2001, their elected Mayor Rudy Giuliani was highly proactive. After the attacks, Giuliani coordinated the response of various city departments while organizing the support of state and federal authorities for the World Trade Center site, for city-wide anti-terrorist measures, and for restoration of destroyed infrastructure. In his public statements, Giuliani mirrored the emotions of New Yorkers after the September 11 attacks: shock, sadness, anger, resolution to rebuild, and the desire for justice to be done to those responsible. Giuliani’s close involvement with the rescue and recovery efforts and for uniting America in these trying times is worth emulating.
Johny Joseph, ex-MC
But when a similar attack took place in Mumbai on 26th November 2008 or even when there was torrential rains on 26thJuly 2005, what was the response of Mumbai governance? Who was that “key” person who responded? Frankly, no one. The mayor was not heard, the Remote controls were silent and the Municipal Commissioner, Johny Joseph, was largely ineffective and puerile. 
When there is a state calamity – the Chief Minister takes charge. When there is National Calamity – the Prime Minister takes charge. But when there is calamity in Mumbai – who is in charge? No one. And that is our real man-made tragedy.
So, what is needed is a Mayor (or CEO or whatever you may call it), who is accountable not to any party leaders or to any remote controls, but to the people of Mumbai. And this person needs to be empowered by law to take strong, firm administrative decisions and to create a vision for Mumbai to convert it into a World Class city.
We need a directly elected and fully empowered Mayor.
Please keep your inputs and feedback coming through. Let this be a joint effort to rejuvenate our beloved city.
Article by deepak

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