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Illegally Legal

Monday, March 14, 2016
By Prashant Hamine

When the government starts taking decisions like regularizing illegal constructions in urban areas with a penalty and auto-rickshaw permits are given in Mumbai, a slugfest ensues over location of Metro car shed in Aarey Milk Colony, threats are issued to burn auto-rickshaws of non-Maharashtrians, all of which seems to have an unmistakable stamp of the fast approaching Mumbai and other civic body elections in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
Politicians may care a damn about the long term negative impacts that their decisions may cause in the long run. However, the short-sighted electoral gains out-weigh the long term disasters that the decisions eventually lead to.

Back in the reign of the Shiv Sena led “Yuti Sarkar” of 1995-99, the government had announced 40,000 free houses to slum dwellers under “Shiv Shahi Prakalpa”. Today some bureaucrats and urban planners do admit that it was one of the reason that led to mass migration into the city with a belief that one gets a free home for squatting anywhere one finds open space. Thereafter another dreaded scourge to hit urban planning and urban decay is this constant demand from politicians to regularize illegal slums, first it was 2000 and thereafter every now and then politicians have only chosen to extend that deadline without the slightest botheration whether it will lead to more illegal encroachments.

Of course the government is ever willing to regularize illegal constructions. When one looks at this regularization of illegal constructions, it does make the Nand Lal committee report, that probed the illegal constructions in Ulhasnagar  look redundant. Back in 2006, the then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government then had mooted similar proposal of amending the law and regularizing what is essentially a flawed decision.

This constant cycle of one election after the other is also prompting politicians make wild promises without bothering about the consequences. It may be recalled that just months before the 2004 assembly elections late Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray had announced free power to farmers if voted to power.

The only mistake that he did was that he had announced the SOP when elections were a few months away. Realising the vote catching potential it had, then Congress chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde hijacked it, repackaged it and stole power right under the Senas nose. Of course the government did keep its word then, only for a few months and withdrew it afterwards.

It is crystal clear that these overtly election related SOPs are aimed at wooing the electorate, especially the poor. It does not matter whether some parts of the state are reeling under acute water scarcity, thermal power plants are shut due to want of coal and water. Consecutive failed monsoons, failed crops are irrelevant and even mounting debt burden is next governments headache. So never mind if the fiscal deficit and mounting debt burden could derail development. We are still to mature ourselves into segregating economic and infrastructure development from politics. Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray has opposed Metro III carshed and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) that ostensibly passes through Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali. His estranged uncle, MNS president Raj Thackeray is no better trying to raise his hackles over the allotment of autorickshaw permits. It is these non-issues that rule the roost in election year and there seems to be no alternate road maps for development on offer to the electorate.

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