We experience a bumpy ride every day while travelling across the city. Re-digging roads often worsen the scenario. The deplorable state of the city roads can be largely attributed to the re-digging of the roads on the whims and fancies of the authorities, and it worsens during the rainy season leading to many accidents. We can’t pinpoint anyone in particular for the state of affairs. The society at large is responsible for this awful situation – poor infrastructure, BMC, inappropriate planning and the common public too is at fault. Because they are okay with what they have and they don’t want to take notice and register their annoyance.
The only thing that stops local development in Mumbai is huge corruption in BMC. Wherever we travel in Mumbai we can see garbage piles across roads, plastic depositions, potholes, and above all waterlogging. This is the situation in every monsoon. Many political parties ruled us but no one could really give relief to Mumbaikar from waterlogging.
Corruption in BMC is a systematic process, even though the tender process has become online and transparent. The tenders are floated, Bids are made, and interviews and reviews are conducted with contractors. A share of the total amount to be sanctioned for the development is secretly informed to the contractor. (If the contractor agrees the tender is awarded, else rejected).
It is obvious that the contractor who quotes figures lower than the base cost calculation is not going to do justice to the job. He is going to cheat by using inferior material or resorting to poor workmanship. The committee that awards the tender to the contractor does not have the guts NOT to award the tender to the lowest bidder and the corporation does not have sufficient people to closely monitor the quality of the material and the work when the contractor actually executes the job. Obviously, a road prepared this way is unlikely to last very long.
Now again relatives of these politicians themselves make most of the bids. Right from the MLA, Ward officer, tender committee, corporator, and other municipality personals involved etc. the money needs to be pocketed. Then the contractor is left with hardly any money where he can make any profit, so he uses underrated, third-grade material, which does not comply with the agreed tender requirements, but no one takes objection because the contractor keeps a lot of weight on their pockets. And within a few days, the roads were uprooted. And the taxpayer’s money goes into waterlog.
If an honest engineer tries to show that the bid should be higher, people start wondering why he is speaking in favour of increasing the price and start suspecting the engineer’s integrity. Everybody in the corporation knows that since the road is shortly going to crumble and will have to be resurfaced again next year, the actual cost of choosing the lowest bidder is way higher than what the most expensive bidder had quoted. But how does one challenge the rules of the tender process? What will the auditor say? There are so many people interested in the tender, any person who tries to break away is bound to get roasted, and the news reports and media are always around to look for a sensational story. They also publish the reports; flash the news but no follow-up.
Genuine people do not use the proactive act, Right to Information. Rather the namesake journalist used it. Normally no one looks into a government office, citing it won’t affect us. Let’s take an example of how the system works. Let us say one km stretch of road 27 meters wide needs to be resurfaced. The officers of the corporation, who are well-qualified engineers, make a calculation of how much it should cost to do the work, taking into account the specs, the quantity of material required, and the amount of time, labor rates, and cost of hiring equipment and so on. This amount is only used for internal purposes – for allocating and blocking a budget.
After-effects’ of said substandard work is never-ending inquiry and investigation. There would be never-ending court cases, never-ending political advantages and slowly the settlement. So until we have a responsible representative for our wards/constituency, which really has some good intention of development and making a change for the society, we can’t expect some good results in return. But corruption is still an underdog, and these politicians silence the people who raise their voices by doing Gundagiri or threatening. So everybody just goes through the motions and becomes apathetic to the obvious wrong that is being committed and just lives with the situation.
Above all, there is no single window system for the service given to the public, as such the public tend to go to all the departments for a single work or for NOC and if any officer is pending their paper, for minimizing the time schedule the people are required to give bribes to save their valuable time. There is no awareness of the right to service act as such, BMC officers are getting the benefit of this and they put up files at one corner of their table and wait for a party to come to them.
Can this system ever be changed? Yes, but it needs fearless engineers and even more, bosses who will back them up when it comes to the crunch. Moreover, we need clean politicians, but that is a rare possibility.