Sunday, August 27, 2006

Can Ministers "guard" Mumbai ?

There's this hoarding on Marine Drive, just under the flyover and near the petrol pump after the Mumbai Police Gym ground. It's a Nationalist Congress Party ad congratulating the appointment of Shri Jayant Patil as the "Guardian Minister" of Mumbai.

Yes, you got that right. Our city has a Guardian Minister. As if the efforts of our Mayor weren't enough we now have a Minister to guard over us. So - who is Jayant Patil ? No less than the Finance Minister of the state of Maharashtra. Check out his bio here.

What will Shri Patil guard us against ? Bad roads ? corruption ? crowded trains and roads ? rising property prices ? or terrorism ? Could someone please show me the responsibilities of such a Minister ? And who is he accountable to ? Does he have a list of priorities ? Or, like the CM, will he just reiterate the..er..importance of the..um.. completion of projects like the MUTP, Mumbai Metro, etc to address the woes of Mumbai ?

On googling for "Guardian Minister Mumbai", these are a few of the activities the Hon. Guardian Minister has done so far

- Visited the BMC HQ. And was reminded by the Sena-run BMC that the Maharashtra State Govt (run by Congress+NCP) owes the BMC dues worth Rs579cr. Ah..politics.

- Promised Slum rehab. Can't a resist a quote he's given there "We are striving to improve citizens’ standard of living and give them basic amenities." - Finally an agenda. For brevity sakes, we reduce it to one line and leave the rest to the BMC, MMRDA, BEST, ABC, XYZ and the other acronyms responsible for improving our standard of living.

Now here's another interesting aspect to this issue. Shri Chandrakant Handore is the Guardian Minister for Mumbai Suburban District (links here, here and this one here which..er..has him named in a gangster tape). So does he report to the Guardian Minister ?

And in case you were wondering who were the earlier Guardian Ministers for Mumbai, before Mr. Patil, there was a certain Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar. And before both of them, there was none other than Chhagan Bhujbal himself.

This seems to be another case of all hype and no substance. After the Sheriff and the Mayor, surely this is another case of meaningless designations, posts without responsibilities or accountability.

And then again, it looks like a sop, a sweetener, given to the NCP in return for their support to the Congress so that both can rule Maharashtra - and hence Mumbai. Yet again, the politicians looking after themselves under what seems to be a random attempt to guard the city.

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