The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the country’s richest civic body, was governed by administrators for the better part of 2022, as the city emerged from the shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the civic body’s five-year term ended in March, the elections were stalled due to the pandemic at the start of the year and the subsequent political turmoil in Maharashtra, which saw the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in June.
Mumbai entered 2022 with a sudden rise in coronavirus cases, putting the BMC on alert.
The city reported more than 20,000 daily cases for a few days at the start of the year, although the toll did not see a sharp rise. By April, the infections gradually ebbed, prompting the civic body to do away with the mask rule, which had been in force since 2020.
The BMC also managed to vaccinate the entire adult population in the city against the deadly infection. It had administered 92,42,888 second doses of the vaccine, as against its target of 92,36,500 to people above the age of 18 by April 5.
The pandemic was not the only challenge the civic body faced this year.
Mumbai also endured an outbreak of measles in the last quarter of the year. In 2022, the city reported over 514 cases and the disease claimed 14 lives, including five unconfirmed deaths.
After the BMC’s term ended on March 7, municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal was appointed as the administrator and has been governing the corporation since. With an eye on the civic elections, the previous MVA government led by Uddhav Thackeray had decided to increase the number of civic wards to 236 from the existing 227.
The BMC also conducted a lottery for the reservation of 236 seats in May, but after the Supreme Court approved the Banthia Commission’s report on the Other Backward Classes quota, the State Election Commission asked for a fresh lottery, which was conducted on July 29.
The present Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government recently informed the Bombay High Court that it would not proceed with the process of delimitation of wards in the BMC till further hearing of a plea against the reduction of wards in the civic body. The next hearing in the matter is on January 3, 2023.
Though it was an election year for the civic body, Mumbai did not get any big-ticket projects and there were no major infrastructural developments.
The civic body completed one of the twin tunnels, measuring 2.07 km, for the Coastal Road project on January 11, 2022, while the digging work for the second tunnel is underway and is expected to be completed early next year.
As part of the Rs 12,000 crore project, twin tunnels are being dug between Girgaum Chowpatty and Priyadarshini Park using a ”Mavala” tunnel boring machine (TBM).
Among other major decisions, the MVA government, before it collapsed in June, announced to waive off property tax for houses measuring 500 sq ft, which was an assurance given by the Shiv Sena during the 2017 polls.
Despite multiple waves of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the BMC managed to collect the highest ever Rs 5,792 crore in property tax in the financial year 2021-22, which was Rs 700 crore more than the previous year. After coming to power in August, the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government directed the civic body to concretize 400 km of roads at the cost of Rs 6,000 crore and the civic body has already started the tendering process.
The government also recently launched more than 500 beautification works in the city and suburbs.
As the Maharashtra government did away most of the COVID-19 restrictions in April and people moved around without masks, the city celebrated Janmashtami, Ganpati festival and Diwali with much fanfare after a gap of two years. Under the Union government’s ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ initiative to commemorate 75 years of the country’s Independence, the civic body illuminated iconic buildings and distributed 41 lakh tricolours to households in the city.
Despite the timely arrival of monsoon, the civic body was forced to impose a 10 per cent water cut in June after the rains played a disappearing act in the first few weeks. The city received satisfactory rainfall in the next few months and delayed retreat of monsoon ended the water worries.
Unlike previous years, monsoon was not a menace for Mumbaikars in 2022, as fewer instances of flooding were reported, even in the low-lying areas.
The civic body succeeded in keeping Hindmata and Gandhi Market areas in central Mumbai and Milan Subway in the western suburbs free of waterlogging during the monsoon this year.
The BMC, which was controlled by the Shiv Sena for the last 25 years, was also a centre of political battles this year.
When the MVA government was in power, the civic body had slapped notices on BJP leader and Union minister Narayan Rane’s bungalow ‘Adhish’, in the upscale Juhu area, for alleged violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms.
The city also witnessed high drama when the BMC issued notices to Khushi Belmondo Building in Santacruz (west), in which BJP functionary Mohit Kamboj resides and to Amravati MP Navneet Rana and her MLA husband Ravi Rana’s house in Khar area.
The Shiv Sena’s power tussle seeped into the BMC after rival factions of the party sought permission to hold their annual Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park in October.
While the civic body had initially denied permission to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction, it was forced to grant permission after a rap from the Bombay High Court.
Things also came to a head when late Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke’s wife Rutuja, a civic employee, tendered her resignation to contest the bypoll from Andheri East Assembly constituency after the seat fell vacant due to Latke’s death.
The civic body, however, refused to accept her resignation citing technical reasons. But it was forced to give in after the high court’s intervention. Apart from the political drama, the city witnessed several deaths due to disasters such as fires, building collapses and landslides this year.
The blaze at Kamla building at Nana Chowk area of south Mumbai, which killed seven people in January and the death of 19 people in the collapse of a three-storey dilapidated building at Kurla Nehru Nagar area in June were some of the worst disasters.
The civic-run Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo, popularly known as Byculla Zoo, celebrated its 160th anniversary on November 19 and welcomed a host of new animals at the facility this year. With the pandemic raging in other parts of the world, the city will be on tenterhooks if infections make a comeback next year.
The civic elections are another thing to look forward to in 2023.