Monsoons in India

The drainage system is completely choked, and no one is willing to take the responsibility.

Seema Mustafa July 26, 2013
The writer is a consulting editor with The Statesman and writes for several newspapers in India

For the politicians in power in Delhi and Mumbai particularly, this seems to be India’s first monsoon. The complete collapse of the infrastructure of India’s two biggest cities is being attributed to the rains, as if it has never rained before. If we go by the political leaders, it is these damn monsoons that have destroyed the cities, run so efficiently by the state governments; it is this ‘unprecedented’ rain that has flooded roads and homes in the heart of Delhi and Mumbai; it is this flooding because of the rains in these monsoons because of which a young film-maker lost his life. In other words, the politician is helpless as he watches nature’s fury rage around him or her.

Really? Or, is it the corruption in the local civic bodies because of which the drainage system is blocked resulting in this waist-deep flooding in the heart of South Delhi? Or, is it the corrupt politician accepting bribes from the corrupt contractor who has ensured that substandard material is used for substandard construction? Or, is it because of the civic authorities, bribed out of their minds, who care little about naked electrical wires and the complete misuse of amenities by unscrupulous shopkeepers and others? Or, in short, is it the nexus of the corrupt politician, bureaucrat, thekedar and the minions who have looted the peoples to provide infrastructure that dissolves in the rain, and cannot take the pressure of normal monsoons?

The chief ministers of Delhi and Maharashtra are silent, as are the ministers concerned in both the state and central governments. There is not a word of remorse, not a word of apology, just the usual ostrich-like approach of burying the political head in the water in the hope that the crisis will pass on its own.

The international airport at Delhi was flooded out last year. At that time, the big time contractors insisted it had nothing to do with the construction but with the fact that the local civic authorities had not bothered about proper drainage outside. Engineering experts at the time were quoted in sections of the media as saying that the flooding was because of design and construction flaws but then the big contractors made sure that the big politicians in charge did not listen to the dissenting voices, and the issue passed with the monsoons. This year, the airport has been flooded twice already within a month. Passengers arriving at Delhi find themselves wading through ankle deep water, with the conveyor belts and lifts out of operation and chaos overtaking the international airport.

Politicians have allowed Delhi and Mumbai to rot to a point where they probably no longer know where to begin. Roads in posh New Delhi have caved in; roads in Mumbai have gigantic potholes; the drainage system is completely choked, and no one is willing to take the responsibility. All in power are apportioning blame to the other, with not a thought for the 33-year-old film-maker who had stopped to draw money out of a bank and was helping his grandmother into the car when he was electrocuted. And why? Because the municipal lords had, in all likelihood, been compensated sufficiently to allow a jewellery shop owner to place an AC unit on an iron railing outside his shop, in complete violation of the municipal by-laws. The two shop owners were arrested and released on bail but what about the civic authorities who have allowed all kinds of violations to take place across Delhi? Who is going to act against them? No one, as all are in cahoots. Delhi is a city run on black money with real estate contributing largely to the parallel economy. Money flows in black and creates a system where individuals who have the money bribe their way across the board; and the institutions of the state emerge compromised and corrupt. The honest individual is not just a rarity, he or she is considered a fool by those earning the fast bucks, acquiring real estate, shopping in five-star malls, and taking glitzy holidays. For them, the price of tomatoes and onions is meaningless, “Rs20 or Rs100, what is the difference?”

This time around, the usual platitudes “we will ensure this does not happen again” are also not emerging from the political class. The consensus seems to be to hunker down, wait for the rains to pass and hope that the short memory of the public and the unprofessionalism of the media that rarely follows up stories will work in favour of the corrupt and cold nexus controlling Mumbai and the capital of India.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2013.

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