After the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) put out an open call on Twitter for suggestions on the upcoming BMC budget, over 1,000 responses poured in. Citizens, by virtue of their lived experience, have plenty to ask from the budget of the municipality, expected to be released today (February 4th) and likely to entail allocations of over Rs 45000 crore.
As the city’s most popular and effective citizen welfare and grievance redressal forum, we at Mumbai North Central District Forum (MNCDF) too have a list of demands from the municipality. Our network of 110 members come from different walks and areas of the city, each of them working through a community governance approach to keep checks & balances on government bodies.
And although we are already proactive and constantly engage with the BMC in redressing civic complaints, a participatory budget is a vital step in increasing the voice of citizens in the matters of our city.
Below is the wishlist that we have, outlining key areas that the budget should make provisions for:
- Roads should be well maintained, with proper markings; no potholes; no loose cobblestones or debris; disuse paver blocks in road repairs; have uniform guidance and rules on speed breakers, footpath size and crosswalk maintenance.
- Agencies should not be allowed to dig roads soon after they are repaired. Under-road wiring requirements should be planned in advance, and utility services must be given separate lanes and developed in a way that constant digging is not necessary. If digging is unavoidable, it must be done quickly and preferably when there is less traffic, possibly at night.
- A special team must be appointed to monitor agencies that leave potholes unfilled after completing work, and also illegal hoardings, encroachment of footpaths, etc. This has to be done as a matter of routine, instead of waiting to take action only when citizens complain.
- There should be more bicycle lanes.
- Traffic and driving licence management should be improved. Licences should not be given without training and the punishment for breaking rules should be high.
- CCTVs should be reinstalled on all signals as most have been removed or have not been working due to metro work and new bridges.
- Footpaths should be for pedestrians only, not slums, hawkers or shopkeepers.
- Instead, organised markets for hawkers must be set up. Vegetable stands should be at least four feet tall so the food we buy does not mix with the garbage on the roads or gutter and rainwater.
- If hawkers cannot be cleared, a parallel extended footpath should be created for hawkers. The road should be made narrower, and car travellers should be left to face the music.
- Pedestrian zebra crossings must be properly marked. Jaywalking at major crossroads should be fined.
- All political and other hoardings/posters must be removed from the entire city. Heavy penalties should be levied on defacement.
- Focus on the commercial infrastructure around railway stations so the problem of hawkers can be reduced.
- Squatters should be moved to proper government facilities, where they are provided food, shelter and work. Public housing schemes should be adopted to aid this.
- Instal water metres just as the BMC does with gas pipelines and electricity, as illegal water connections and corruption is increasing.
- Ensure clean drinking water everywhere in the city. Many areas, such as Santacruz West near the Milan subway, have to let the initial sewage water flow out for 15 to 20 minutes before it turns clean. It has been years since the issue has remained unresolved.
Parks and beautification
- BMC gardens, parks and playgrounds should be well maintained with high standards and good-quality equipment. Jogging tracks should not be encroached on and their status should not be changed.
- CCTV cameras should be installed, as many narcotics, drugs and psychedelic substances (NDPS) are consumed there.
- Neglected gardens and lakes should be revived.
- Invest in urban green spaces and forests, like the Marol urban forest project and around the Mithi river.
- Tree basins should be made mandatory at every 15 feet where there is construction. These should be protected as per the Tree Act, and when a tree is uprooted or cut, it must be replaced as soon as possible.
- Improve waste management in the city. Responsibility should be divided between private and public authorities, with buildings and housing societies in charge of their premises and certain areas. If garbage is not picked up on time, the BMC official in charge should be penalised.
- Clean the Mithi river. A better drainage system is needed for this.
- Air and sound pollution needs to be controlled.
- Rethink fogging and replace it with other measures to control mosquitoes, as fogging only adds to pollution.
- Well-maintained and proper public restrooms are needed.
- All roads and footpaths, including the non-VIP, should be cleaned. Machines to vacuum the dust will improve their conditions. Clean footpaths will encourage people to avoid walking on the roads, giving way for the smooth driving of cars and a reduction in accidents.
- Increase the technology in BMC public schools and ensure the teachers in them are well educated. This will ensure donations to private schools stop.
- There should be a user-friendly and effective portal for the redressal of citizens’ complaints in a stipulated time frame. This should be aided with the help of a toll-free number, a mobile application and the corporation’s social media presence. Officers should be empowered with authority and accountability.
- The BMC mobile application should be comprehensive, giving all information needed, facilities to pay all types of bills (water, property, tax, licence fees, etc), and lodge complaints.
- Come up with and enforce a policy on stray animals, as they bite and spread disease.
- Ensure no floods during the monsoon.
- Beautification pails put throughout Mumbai on narrow footpaths should be removed immediately, as they serve no purpose and are being misused. It is dangerous for women to walk there as there is no escape from a walker from the opposite side.
- Above-ground cables and wires should be moved underground in an organised manner.
- Protect young children who are made to beg and/or sell items on the street.
- Increase transparency in the funds being spent. Each department of the BMC should have fixed responsibilities and should be more attuned and quick to address complaints.