Nope, Mumbaila BMC Var Bharosa Nahi

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Nope, Mumbaila BMC Var Bharosa Nahi

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

M
umbai has turned its tagline on its head. If the fire at Kamala Mills and our general attitude toward safety measures is any indication, the city that never sleeps has been slumbering for decades. If Facebook were to make a 2017 year-end review video for the BMC, it would have a really distressing story to tell.

In the past year alone, we’ve had a doctor fall into a manhole and lose his life, the horrible stampede at Elphinstone railway station, multiple deaths due to potholes, and now the horrendous fire at the Kamala Mills compound that claimed 14 lives. And this would just be the highlight reel — we haven’t even reached Mahul yet. And just like Facebook, the residents of Maximum City are expected to merely leave sad reacts, trend hashtags, forgive, forget, and get on with their lives as the Spirit of Mumbai watches over them. All in the span of 24 hours.

Kamala Mills Mumbai

If the fire at Kamala Mills and our general attitude toward safety measures is any indication, the city that never sleeps has been slumbering for decades.

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But this time, the BMC is going to have a tough time erasing this nightmarish memory from Mumbai’s consciousness. It won’t stop at the suspension of five civic officials. After all, it’s not your average middle-class person going to work in public transport who was harmed in this disaster. Nor was this a stray incident in one of the remote areas of the city where shady permits are obtained and lack of adherence to safety measure is the norm.

Kamala Mills lies in the heart of one of the toniest areas in the city, just a stone’s throw from Elphinstone, where high-powered investment bankers rub shoulders with equally high-powered media execs. It hosts world-class restaurants, pubs, and bars that are packed to capacity on most evenings. If a tragedy of this magnitude can strike the heartland, I shudder to think about the situation in other parts of the city that we readily neglect. Mumbai is a ticking time bomb, a fact confirmed by the Mumbai Fire Brigade during a recent inspection.

If Facebook were to make a 2017 year-end review video for the BMC, it would have a really distressing story to tell.

As expected, our coping mechanism in dealing with this tragedy, is to watch the ball of blame being tossed from one agency to the next. Almost on cue, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya took a jibe at the BMC, claiming that Kamala Mills is a death trap, and the BMC is responsible for “murder”. Social activists have also have pointed out “illegal structures” in the area and the negligence of the BMC to deal with the same. Aaditya Thackeray tweeted that fire audits are a must and action will be taken if violations are found (but not when fake licenses can be bought.) This is the man who has been batting for a 24/7 Mumbai with a robust nightlife. Sorry Mr Thackeray, but it doesn’t seem like the pitch is ready for it yet.  

Kamala Mills

We’ve grown so used to the sight of tragedy that no matter the season, there is immense faith in the BMC — of letting the city down.

Image credit: Twitter

Meanwhile, India’s richest municipal corporation continues to press the snooze alarm. We’ve grown so used to the sight of tragedy that no matter the season, there is immense faith in the BMC — of letting the city down. But that’s unfair of us. The BMC has other important duties, like harassing radio jockeys for making rap songs about their inefficiency, or accusing recycle workers of setting fire to the mountain of waste at Deonar dumping ground. Can’t really blame them for slipping up on some of their other minor duties like checking on illegal construction and ensuring fire safety norms are adhered to.

I wonder how long before corporators ask us to just repose our faith in the Spirit of Mumbai, knowing well that the city is going to bounce back. It has no choice but to.

After all, if roads have potholes, people can’t just sit at home. If trains are consistently jam-packed, it doesn’t mean they won’t go to work. The spirit of Mumbai isn’t voluntary, nor something to be proud of. It’s a declaration of helplessness. Of defencelessness. Of a complete lack of alternatives to the situation we find ourselves in. Just wait until next year when Kamala Mills will be re-built, lit up fabulously during Christmas, and everyone will filter in for a party like nothing ever happened.

After all, we are a city that never sleeps… Because the nightmares of our slumber are impossible to bear and continue to haunt our waking hours.

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