Rain throws Mumbai out of gear

MUMBAI, JULY 12. Mumbai came to a halt once again today, with rains inundating roads and rail track, and crippling all movements, all because of poor drainage. Irked citizens blame the civic management which refuses to learn its lesson.

All it needs is not just heavy rain to cripple this metropolis, home to some 1.2 crore people plus more who come from neighbouring Thane, New Mumbai and Kalyan, but also the extended suburbs and dormitory towns around; if the rains coincide with the high tide, then water without flow out through stormwater drains which are clogged. Corporators have themselves spoken of up to 47 per cent of contract values being spent on bribes.

It is a combination of nature, administrative incompetence and dishonesty among contractors that has made water-logging common. The Central Railway lines, built decades ago, are at least 11 feet below the sea-level and if they do not submerge it would be a wonder. The Western Railway suburban services and harbour lines too are likewise crippled.

Every year, the civic corporation, never mind which party runs it, claims that the drains are to be cleared in a ``pre-monsoon cleaning up'' but some pretense of work helps the contractors pocket the money and the city is left to nature's mercy. Even minimum essential tasks like desilting and removing garbage which chokes the drains have not been carried out apparently fully.

Today the Chief Minister, Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, was forced to cancel a post-Cabinet media briefing since the Secretariat was bereft of people and mediapersons could not stir out of their suburban homes. Trains, either ran late or halted en route.

By forenoon, streets and roads in South Mumbai, normally spared the sight of stranded cars and people, had more than ankle-deep to knee-deep water. An 88.5 mm of rain across the metropolis in 21 hours since 8.30 a.m. yesterday and continuing rain during the approach to peak hour today.

In Mumbai, if the trains runs, everything will work. If it does not, everything will cease to function - offices are empty, shops closed and hawkers remain off the sidewalks.

Seven killed UNI reports:

At least seven persons were killed in two separate incidents of landslides in north-east Mumbai, the police and the fire brigade said.