Wednesday last, I spent roughly 2.5 hours on Lady Jamsedji Road in central Bombay. No, I was not shopping for vegetables or the like. It was a traffic jam and a heinous one at that. Reason: rains. And I left my office in Worli (central Bombay) thinking it couldn't be that bad. I mean sure it would take half an hour to 45 minutes more than the usual 1 hour (which is half an hour more than the earlier usual) but still.
Well, the roads were paralysed, the traffic had come to a standstill. To top it all, most of this arterial road was without power. And the water was rising, steadily. Actually no, but it looked like it would. For the moment, it was a steady drizzle, the downpour stopped a little while ago. And guess what, no traffic policemen. Or any policemen.
They had dissapeared. Like they did the last time I was stuck on this road for this duration. Would you like to know when that was ? Well, it was July 26, 2005, more fondly remembered as 26/7. When our car approached a traffic junction where we planned to turn off for a parallel road, I finally saw two men in the distance directing traffic. Policemen finally, I thought. Guess what, as I was turning off, I discovered they were local residents. Youngsters wearing wind cheaters. Amazing !
Every Deadline Is Broken
I can vent on and on about a whole lot of things that are wrong with the way civic authorities have plain messed up this year's run up to this year's monsoons. One thing stands clearly out. And that is a monumental inability to mismanage the simplest of things. Why else do you think every deadline for road completion is behind schedule. Which competent manager would have waited till the last day to finish what could have been done months ago ?
Or a disaster management system which failed instantly. Come on folks, have you heard of running mock-ups, tests, stress tests. How do you even dream your system works when you haven't exposed it. So, it boils down to a such a total managerial crisis in Bombay's civic system that even talking about it is depressing. Its this crisis that is ensuring the simplest things are going wrong and will continue. Unless something is done.
Running a city is not a joke. Surely not a megapolis like Bombay. And even assuming we had the most dedicated people in charge, I am sorry, it does not help. What you need here is not just commitment but talent. And a specific talents at that. We cannot be at the mercy of arbitrarily transferred civil servants. Someone who was running the textiles department or tourism cannot be running a city. No way. Someone who was running tourism can be sent to animal husbandry or agriculture.
Get People Who Have Experience
Infrastructure and city projects should be run by people who have managed large projects. Its another issue that even competent people have failed us. But the chances of their learning from their mistakes and improving are better. That's the difference between good managers and bad ones. We have the worse, because not only do they not learn from their mistakes but repeat the same ones every day. And every citizen in Bombay pays the price, dearly.
Bombay is now saddled with the most inept managers in the repertoire of India's bureaucracy, I would hazard. When the city is crying for the best in the country. The Government needs to hunt for managers. Actively. It needs to find them from within its system. Since it does not have the guts to hire from outside. And to be fair, there is talent within.
Whether within the Bombay Municipal Corporation or outside, we need managers who can manage projects, deadlines and be responsive to customers or citizens. And preferably have a track record of doing so. Put together a committee of former and present city managers to hunt for a candidate. And trust me you will. Even the government ocassinaly gets these things right. At least when it comes to public sector companies.
Politicians Bumble Along Too
Unfortunately, our politicians are unfortunately bumbling along with the mis-managers. Collectively, they are like the five blind men and an elephant. Which is obviously the city of Bombay. I can't think of a more disasterous combination. Good politicians have the basic sense to find and install good managers. Its their responsibility as well. Its time they did something. And found the right guys for the job.