Elected as Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s standing committee chairman for the fourth consecutive term, Shiv Sena corporator from Byculla Yashwant Jadhav speaks to Sanjana Bhalerao about the BMC’s response in tackling the Covid-19 spike.
The state government and BMC are facing criticism for Covid-19 restrictions. What would you say about that?
I believe that if citizens follow rules strictly, there might not be any need to intensify restrictions. There is criticism, but the same people who are criticising are quiet when it comes to suggestions for improving health infrastructure or appealing to people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.
No one is offering help to control the daily numbers but only criticising the lockdown. I believe that at least the Covid situation should not be politicised.
CM Uddhav Thackeray consulted all leaders, including the opposition, and appealed for their support. But they (BJP) agreed with a condition that we should not criticise the Centre. We are not criticising the central government, but merely stating facts and our expectations. Calling that criticism is wrong. Somewhere, Maharashtra is getting secondary treatment and that’s why we are asking for what is rightfully ours.
Basically, they are telling people roam around, don’t follow rules. I would say that today these infections are rising only because of the BJP’s adamant attitude. If they follow rules and regulations, things will improve. Their support is only lip service. They only criticise.
How do you see Mumbai’s fight against Covid-19, especially now, during the second wave?
There is no question that CM Uddhav Thackeray, Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray and Health Minister Rajesh Tope have played a crucial role in tackling the pandemic. The civic administration has worked with the state government and strictly implemented all Covid-related policies as issued by the state government.
For controlling the infection last year, BMC immediately set up Covid Care Centre, distributed sanitisers, PPE kits to dispensaries among others. The work done by BMC and its infection control model was not only applauded and replicated by other states but also internationally. Now, during the second wave, BMC is equipped, there will not be a lack of funds. In some cases, other projects might get delayed, but BMC is prepared to spend for people’s health.
The BJP has alleged corruption in purchases related to Covid-19 work and mismanagement.
As Covid-19 hit last year, BMC started preparing health infrastructure. There were allegations that there was mismanagement of funds and corruption. I feel only corrupt people will make such allegations. Their minds are filled with corruption. It is people’s money that was spent on people. Still, I asked for an audit of expenditure.
The audit report has come in and there is no sign of corruption or mismanagement of funds. BJP functionaries who are criticising us should show us which other state is providing better health services than us. They are purely instigating citizens. If they don’t have confidence in the state government or BMC, how come the opposition leader (Devendra Fadnavis) took treatment in the state?
Why did he not go to other states for treatment? I would request people to not fall prey to such instigations and understand that our decisions are for them. Providing citizens good services is our duty and we will appropriately spend all the money required for that. Mumbai citizens know who is corrupt. These people are neck-deep in corruption.
Many corporators have complained that BMC/commissioner has not taken public representatives into confidence before taking decisions. What do you say as Standing Committee chairman?
There are times when one has to take a strong stance. When the pandemic began in March, in the standing committee meeting, all political parties granted special financial powers to the Municipal Commissioner to tackle the pandemic.
After a year, is it fair to criticise that? He is not spending it haphazardly. There are certain quick decisions that have to be taken to save lives and the commissioner has all the rights to take decisions. I personally feel that neither the administration nor the commissioner will take any wrong decision.
Despite spending crores on nullah cleaning and constructing pumping stations, new projects the city still get flooded. What do you have to say, as Sena has been in power in BMC for over 15 years?
Understand the rain pattern of the last few years. The intensity of rain in a short span has increased manifold. Keeping that in mind, we have started pumping stations, localised water pumps. Steps were taken over the years, such as BRIMSTOWAD, have worked. Now at Hindmata, we are constructing an underground water tank. We are working on all possible flood-control measures. I don’t think that this monsoon there will be flooding in the city. I would like to highlight that in the last few years, even if a low-lying area has flooded, water has receded faster, within hours rather than days. During high tide, rainwater from drains is not discharged into the sea and it starts flowing back.
BJP has accused you of wasting public money in distribution of jute bags in your ward and unfair development fund distribution.
It is only one person who is repeatedly attacking every work of mine. All the corporators know that we are working for the needy. After the plastic ban, people in my ward (Ward E) needed these jute bags. There are slums in my ward and they are using plastic bags. This is a pro-poor initiative and I am well within my rights to do so.
We are working for the poor, not for any enterprise. These people (BJP) work for the rich, we work for the needy and poor. And I am not the only one who asked for jute bags, others have also distributed the bags in their respective wards. Secondly, fund distribution is the standing committee chairman’s right. I have distributed funds appropriately in all the past years and in the current year.
BMC elections are scheduled next year. Will Shiv Sena have an alliance with Congress?
All these decisions will be taken by our party head, CM Uddhav Thackeray, and Aaditya saheb. I am a party worker and whatever they decide and instruct us to do, we will follow.