Akin to the great floods of July 2005 when the city was buried under 945 mm rainfall on a single day, Mumbaikars were mostly left to fend for themselves on Tuesday when it rained about 316 mm, paralyzing the megapolis.
A day later, the situation had yet to fully normalized in the country’s commercial capital as thousands struggled to reach their homes on Wednesday morning – instead of rushing to work as is the usual weekday scenario for Mumbai’s eight million plus commuters.
Mumbaikars alleged that the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), India’s richest civic body with an annual budget of over Rs 25,000 crore and cash reserves of over Rs 61,000 crore, totally let down the citizens who battled all odds to survive and remain safe or unhurt.
“Every year, the BMC claims it spends billions of rupees, this year over Rs 6 billion, for cleaning drains and upgrading the infrastructure pre-monsoon. If this is the result, where has the money gone?” demanded an agitated realtor P. Desai of Vile Parle.
Proclaimed the financial powerhouse of the country, Mumbai simply collapses whenever there is 100mm rains and losses worth billions are incurred due to the inefficiency of the civic officials and the ruling Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party, Desai added.
On day 2, the train services have not got fully on tracks though the regular crowds were missing owing to a holiday declared for schools and colleges. Even government servants were given the option to attend office only if feasible.
The IMD has already forecast “heavy to very heavy rains in the entire coastal Konkan belt including Mumbai” later on Wednesday and the extreme wet weather conditions are likely to persist till Saturday.
Even as Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray conducted a meeting with top civic and party officials, the opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party targeted the ruling party (Shiv Sena) and ally BJP for “utter failure” to cope up with the situation.
“Thackeray had said this year Mumbai would not sink during rains. What happened to the claim? Where have the billions of rupees spent on civic works gone?” asked Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council Dhanjan Munde of NCP.
Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam demanded that the Shiv Sena should quit the BMC and asked for the resignation of Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta for Tuesday’s deluge when large parts of the city remained under three to five feet of water.
“After the great Mumbai floods of 2005, the BMC had been allocated Rs 1,600-crores for the BrihanMumbai Stormwater Disposal System (BRIMSTOWAD) project, but not even 40 percent of the works are completed after 12 years,” Nirupam pointed out.
Corporate consultant Jagdamba Purohit said Mumbaikars become apprehensive whenever it rains continuously for even a few hours.
“Why the state and civic bodies are unable to put in place solid systems – on the lines of other big cities worldwide – to tackle any quantum of rainfall we get? With such huge budgets, growing revenues and strong reserves, shortage of funds cannot be the excuse,” Purohit said.
Unfazed by the criticism, the Shiv Sena expressed confidence that “Lord Ganesha will protect Mumbai from all such disasters”.
In an edit in the party mouthpiece Saamana on Wednesday, the Sena attacked the “political snakes” in the Opposition for pointing accusing fingers at the party without considering the massive amounts of rains that lashed Mumbai on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, owing to a series of cancellations, massive delays, diversions of several long-distance trains to and from Mumbai, thousands of passengers continued to be stranded at railway stations and terminals like Borivali, Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, Bandra, Mumbai Central, Dadar Terminus and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus.
Mumbaikars faced the prospects of a fresh spiraling of prices of fruits, vegetables and essentials owing to short supply from wholesale centres outside Mumbai.
BMC Commissioner Mehta said nearly 30,000 BMC staffers were out on Mumbai roads since Tuesday and had cleared 5,000 tonnes of garbage among other things.