Thursday, June 19, 2008


A couple of days back I was talking to a friend in Mumbai and learnt how eagerly Mumbai'tes wait for the rain. It had rained cats and dogs in Mumbai recently. Everyone knows that the civic problems would surface again in spite of the big talks shared by the local authority's netas. Talks of faux promises abound. So the best people do when its Barso Re Megha Megha Barso Re time, is to keep the umbrellas and rain coats ready. Kids pray to rain God, to get a few extra days off from school. All these happen each year and its kind of ritual.

But this year there is a twist in the tale. Come rainy season, Mumbai is witness to scores of open manholes, and this year, the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) is blaming the Chinese dragon for its excruciations.

Though the connecting link seems a bit sapless but definitely there is some spine in the reasoning.

Let's mix a bit of Freakonomics logic and come out with the right questions and underlying connections. The facts that emerge from the cauldron have ample reasoning index. China which is hosting the 2008 Olympic Games is busy constructing massive structures. As a result of this, it is quaffing tons and tons of iron and steel, hence increasing the demand for this resource globally. A natural fallout of this is that organized gangs are now operating in various parts of Mumbai city, that steal the manhole covers. This is simply a case of supply and demand mismatch. Around 1,500 covers have been stolen in the past couple of months, and the price of each stolen manhole is around Rs 5,500 in the grey market.

Now why is Mumbai targeted and not any other city in India? My answer would rest on two levers. The first one is that it's a port city and so transportation to foreign shores is easy. And second one is that probably in Mumbai, the organized gangs are really orchestrated and well connected.

Even if this point as raised by BMC is a bit exaggerated, separating the chaff from the grain is a bit difficult. There is definitely some amount of truth in it. The truth being, the world today has become iron and steel glutton, because of the development that various nations are going through. So to meet the rising demands, taking short cuts are also acceptable.

There are many inauspicious accidents that Mumbai'tes face because of the sudden disappearance of the manholes. During the rainy season, the streets are over flowing with water, the day it rains heavily. And suppose a regular commuter on a particular road is not aware of the sudden disappearance of a manhole, there is no marking to indicate the impending doom as the water is flowing in full force, s/he may face a fatal accident. It's a more serious issue for kids especially.

Also there's a big financial loss for the city authorities in the event of these theft cases. Since most of the manholes are covered with cast-iron covers, it's a bit more costly and has more scrap value than the ductile-iron covers. This is not a one-off case, I even read many tales such as these which are triggered by the global supply demand inconsistencies.

The only positive side that I see in this episode is that, people know when there is water clogging, the concerned authorities won't turn up soon to fix the problem. So the fastest way water can recede smoothly without causing any chokage is to leave the manholes open. Of course all that needs to be done is to have some alert posts or some tripods with red flags as signals to inform the people. But in many cases, it's the Ramu Kaka or the Kishan Bhaiya in his make shift shop and other regular hawkers who extend the heads-up message.

If my words above sound gimcrackery, then just do a Ctrl+A, then press Delete button for whatever you have read so far. My tongue-in-cheek advice is then, let's go for Sawan Barse Tarse Dil kinda experience.

Ahhhhhhhhhh! am getting rainmatic.

Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note: Manhole pic is taken from Flickr. It's taken by noniphon.)

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home