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Soon, There Might Be More Potholes In Mumbai Than People: What Is The BMC Doing?

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By Jaimine BezBoznik Blesav:

Going by the inflated statistics on potholes in Mumbai, “the city that never sleeps” would choose to start sleeping since the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) acts to lie, corrupt & delude. Every day, month and year, and especially during the monsoon, helpless Mumbaikars do not have any other option other than facing the flak and lethargy designed by the richest municipal body of Asia. The less said, the better. With all due respect, the potholes are likely to overtake the population of Mumbai in next few years. As long as BMC continues to enjoy monopoly on road construction and services, there would not be coherent incentives to rationally overcome the potholes menace.

What Is Being Done?

MUMBAI, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 22, 2005: A MOTORCYCLIST PUSHES HIS BROKEN DOWN BIKE ON POT HOLE INFESTED ROAD AT SANTACRUZ. (Photo by Vijayanand Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Source: Vijayanand Gupta/Getty Images

It has been observed that there are road accidents caused by the potholes. Last year, around 600 died in Maharashtra either directly or indirectly due to potholes. It is also responsible for the poor quality of roads and traffic congestion. Last but not the least, the whole business of auctioning the road contracts to a few crony elites is systemically designed by the BMC. It does not make sense to arrest them and bail them out later. Potholes continue to exist because BMC does not have a sound ideology to overcome the basic problem. For example, does Mumbai have any instrument to seek compensation from BMC for its road management and policy lag? Meanwhile, the administrative functions of BMC are energised by a law drafted by the British in 1888.

There have been cases where helpless Mumbaikars from Malad fixed potholes on their own. This example clearly explains that there is a good scope for community organisers and private owners to manage roads. Ronald F. Kirby, transportation director for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, opined that private companies have more of an incentive to invest in infrastructure early, before a public outcry prompts construction. He noted, “Too often in the public sector, the easiest thing to do is let things sit unresolved. The private sector is motivated by self-interest to resolve things quickly.”

BMC is failing because it is a store of bureaucracies, not businesses. The result of when Rs. 36,000 crore walks into a central treasury is that it does not fuel any good economics but bad politics. Mumbai suffers from BMC syndrome. The municipal body is an unpriced service provider run by an unresponsive monopolistic bureaucracy – on most of our roads. Taking the ‘public choice‘ theory into consideration, there is no revenue streaming directly – from road users to road managers – to provide incentives, either to manage existing capacity to maximum consumer advantage or to adjust capacity to demand. I wonder whether BMC officials ever apply economic tools to understand the problems of Mumbai?

What Should Be Done?

Local neighborhood streets could also be taken care of by the private road associations. The association can allow members to drive these streets for free and charge fees to motorists using them as cut-throughs to get to other places. This would also deflate traffic congestion and empower such bodies to resolve potholes quickly.

Private contractors would compete to provide good road service similar to the way in which elevator companies compete for the business of office buildings, despite the fact that a typical building may only contract with one elevator provider at a time. For example, a company that owns a private road will typically want to at least recoup its earlier investment to construct the road. Furthermore, when construction is complete, the company wants to keep investing in the road to keep up its initial value, because roads deteriorate over time. Road maintenance needs to be quick and of high quality, to keep the road from becoming idle again in the future resulting in a capital loss for the company. Road traffic needs to be maximised, because that will result in higher revenues to the company.

In this whole matter, BMC should not intervene in this equation. It should not attempt to produce public goods at all because it is incapable to facilitate the internalisation of the external costs. Are Mumbaikars blessed with any right to punish BMC for the policy errors? If yes, how do you virtually hold BMC ‘accountable’ for the menace?

The private road or street companies would have no interest in regulating the dress or ‘moral’ habits, or lifestyle of the people who used their streets. They would stay immersed in maintaining the quality of their roads. I’d rather not name a certain regional party which is more interested in policing the lifestyle of Mumbaikars than endeavouring to solve the real problems of Mumbai. Since the power of BMC is the greatest enemy of Mumbai, our city needs a system of better rules. Not bitter rulers. For example, ‘Free A Billionis a social movement based in Mumbai and it is agog to legislate grassroot changes through legislative advocacy. The platform is working towards the principles of our city and endeavors to debauch the establishment of obsolete polity. As you know that BMC’s relationship with potholes is proving very costly for the tax-paying Mumbaikars, it is time to stop, complaining, tolerating potholes and conducing blind obedience. It is time for action and get our city back to its modern glory.

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