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A letter to Girish Gokhale

Mr Girish Gokhale,
The Commissioner,
Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai,
Mumbai 400001.

Sir,
Since this is my first letter to you I must begin on a friendly note. Permit me therefore to congratulate the municipal corporation on an achievement which, in my opinion, must rank somewhere between the invention of the telegraph and the discovery of penicillin. I mean the traffic junction at Chakala: it is now free of flooding. This was a junction notorious for being flooded even after a light rain, so your success in providing proper drainage is noteworthy. If you could do the same at Kondivita you would earn our undying gratitude.

So much for the friendly note. Now on to brass tacks. I wonder if you have noticed that traffic slows down and jams occur even after the lightest rains. This is surprising. After all, roads are not made of cotton that they should shrink when a little water falls on them. I shall trouble you therefore to come down to Marol Naka and study the problem.

Stand a little ahead of the BEST bus stop on the side leading to Andheri. You will observe that the road is a very broad one, roughly four lanes wide on each side. Alas, because your engineers have not provided drainage near the bus stop there is a huge puddle of water nearly two lanes wide. So the width of the road here is effectively only two lanes. Now observe that the BEST buses stop -- as indeed they must if they are not to risk falling into an MTNL ditch -- only on the third lane. That leaves a single lane free; often, indeed, BEST buses block the whole road so that traffic comes to a standstill until the buses move on.

What do we have here? The municipal corporation has spent, let us assume, Rs 10 crore of the taxpayer's hard-earned money to build a four-laned road. Yet, because the corporation has not provided proper drainage, the width of the road at Marol Naka is just one lane. Nor is this the case at only one stop. It is the same at the stop in front of the Leela, at the Mukund Nagar stop on both sides of the road, in front of the Fleet building at Marol Naka and at a dozen other points along the road. For all practical purposes, the road is a single lane one for long stretches. So of the Rs 10 crore you have taken from us, Rs 7.5 crore is wasted merely because your engineers and ward officers did not provide proper drainage.

The trouble is that your ward officer and his engineers have not bothered to even step out of their offices to examine the problem. You might complain that given the wages you are allowed to pay, you are not able to recruit top quality staff. You might want to quote the old saying that if you pay peanuts you will get monkeys. But this is no more than an excuse. Municipal workers are better paid than most others. I may also point out that there are tens of thousands of people in Mumbai who would give their right arms to get a municipal job at half the wages you pay your staff. They would also do a far better job.

Yours sincerely,
A concerned citizen