Mumbaikars’ Rains

The rain God, Varuna, must be one really moody guy. I mean, there he was, going about his job so beautifully just a couple of decades ago. Monsoons were all about dancing peacocks, getting wet and sick in the rains, hot cuppas, pakodas and spicy bhuttas. And Mumbai was as right as rain. No drowning suburbs here, no sir!
Fast forward to the present day. After a slightly prolonged slumber, our dear deity, on whose kindness the entire machinery of our economy runs (yes, we’re still a predominantly agricultural society and yes we are still dependent on the rains), decided to wake up. And in his hurry to get on par with his schedule (after all, he is also the god of the sky, law and the underworld!) he became a little too liberal with his generosity. As a result, Mumbai drowned. Again, I am going to submit this as the official excuse for the Mumbai’s civic administrations’ failure to save the city. It is a refreshing change from the usual excuses that they dole out. A dash of ingenuity from our God-fearing guardians of a hygienic way of life.

The BMC’s consistent failure to do all that is required to equip India’s industrial heart to face the monsoons is leading to huge losses in terms of human lives. It is worsening the already deadly effect of all the diseases that the monsoon brings with it. Apart from human loss, the flooding of large parts of the low lying areas of the city also cripples its lifeline – the local train services. This, along with the flooding itself, spells out losses for all industries in Mumbai to the tune of crores of rupees. However, all this is a logical conclusion of a city that is failing to cope up with rising water levels. What really should be noted by the reader is that all of the above ailments that grip Mumbai during the monsoons are completely avoidable. As our brethren in the BMC would loathe to admit, their lax attitude in attaining deadlines of clearing/cleaning storm water drains and the sewerage lines is largely responsible for this calamity.

Mumbai is a city formed by connecting five islands and the connecting tracts of recovered land are low lying. Any degree of severe rainfall causes them to flood. Therefore, our much loved civic officials in the BMC are expected to be prepared with drills to drain out water from such areas, as the storm water drains alone cannot take the entire load. And they cannot, by any means, take refuge under the excuse of being caught unawares because Mumbai witnessed a similar, albeit more terrible, scenario two years ago on July 26 when incessant rains caused unprecedented flooding. Their lethargy continues to baffle us.

The blocked water that keeps accumulating has some very deadly effects too. Sources report that nearly three dozen people have succumbed to diseases including leptospirosis, gastro-enteritis, malaria and cholera,since the onset of monsoon. And such conditions are not hard to find in Mumbai nowadays. As Mumbai is transforming into a gigantic disease-vulnerable pond, it does force one to ponder over the magnitude of losses that may, perhaps, spur the officials into acting in time and saving lives.

The flooding also cripples rail and road services alike and has the potential to bring all forms of commercial activities to a screeching halt. The rain God’s “prasad”, duly corrupted by our civic guardians leads to frequent traffic snarls, accidents and perhaps rising road rage. Worse, it also floods the rail lines causing huge delays and sometimes even cancellations. Think of it in terms of hours being lost and subsequent losses in businesses. Offices are allowing employees to operate from their residences. They are encouraged to do, if permitted by the rains, during office hours only if they are caught in jammed roads. The corporate world, truly, is trying its best to keep their functioning intact.

And yet again, it is the Mumbaikars themselves who have come to their own rescue. Despite having to face innumerable calamities, natural and otherwise, this city just does not understand the meaning of giving up. However, it is my fervent prayer that the BMC does its bit to keep them less troubled. It would be a sad sight to see their resilience break down. After all, this country has its own share of troubles and sorrows, and every bit to heal it is like a drop in the ocean- meaningless on its own but a force to reckon with when seen in its entirety.

Rishabh Agnihotri

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