Government fails but the citizens don't
[D]oes it make any sense for the municipal commissioner to go on television and to explain that Bombay’s drainage system is a legacy of the Raj and that it cannot cope with any more than a small downpour?But while the administration messed up, Mumbai's people did not. As Sanghvi writes, "Even as the infrastructure — and the politicians who are in charge of it — let Bombay down, its citizens showed us what makes this one of the world’s great cities."
If this is so, then whose fault is it? What happens to the taxes that citizens pay? Why does nobody spend the huge tax revenues that come out of Bombay — the highest in India — in upgrading the drainage system? Each year, when the city shuts down for a day or two during the monsoons, the same explanations are trotted out. And yet, nobody does anything to improve the situation, to try and make sure that it does not happen again.
On Tuesday, hundreds of citizens lost their lives because of this negligence.
Sudheendra Kulkarni expands on just this theme in a column in the Indian Express, where he writes:
It has been said at the touch of love everyone becomes a poet. This too can be said: at the sight of collective hardship and suffering, every man and woman becomes a human being, a better human being, caring almost as much for one’s neighbour — or for the stranger wading through waist-deep water — as for oneself.Kulkarni illustrates this by recounting his experiences during the rains.
Indeed, one of the common themes during disasters in India is that the government often fails to live up to their duties, while private parties take the initiative and do much of the work. Mumbai Mirror reports that a 'Damn the Authorities Movement' has sprung up in Mumbai, with citizens taking the initiative to clear up the mess and work to rehabilitate victims. The report says:
After Tuesday's deluge and the destruction it wrought, the people have begun putting their lives together again, all by themselves. They will not wait for the municipal corporation and its trucks; they don't want to know what the state government will do with the Rs 500 crore Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sent for the city; they don't even want to approach their corporators.Oh, and the cheque that Manmohan promised Maharashtra has arrived, and this is what the authorities plan to use it for. Meanwhile Kavitha Iyer puts together a "to-do list" in the Indian Express.