Mumbai's Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the country's richest civic body has been under scanner yet again this rainy season for negligence in maintaining the city's infrastructure. This negligence has caused injuries and death of citizens due to open manholes and drains.
Earlier this month, a three-year-old toddler went missing after falling into an open drain in Mumbai's western suburb of Goregaon.
The incident had taken place around 10.20 pm in Goregaon's Ambedkar Nagar. In a CCTV footage released, the child could be seen roaming near the edge of a road after which he slips and falls into an uncovered manhole.
While the child could not be saved, citizens have been raising their voice on social media forcing the civic body to act on their grievances. In the past 25 days since Mumbai's Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) became active on Twitter through its handle (@Mybmc), it has been tagged in 68 manhole related grievances, a BOOM analysis found.
Using Twitter's advanced search feature and the keyword 'manhole', BOOM found 68 manhole-related grievance tweets where the @mybmc handle was tagged.
Out of the 68 tweets relating to manholes, 26 were attended to and fixed, 20 were referred to other administrative wards of the BMC while 22 queries were not responded to.
The importance of timely action due to citizen activism can be gauged from the cases that have been reported in the month of July alone. Three incidents of children falling into uncovered drains or manholes have been reported in July 2019. According to a Right To Information (RTI) filed by activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh, 328 Mumbaikars have lost their lives after slipping into an open manhole or drowning into the sea in the last five years.
A city-based journalist Tanmaya Nanda also described his lucky escape by pulling himself out after he fell into an open manhole.
So I fell into this open manhole on the sidewalk on veera desai road (opposite Country Club) a little while ago. Managed to break fall and pull myself out. Thanks @mybmc #mumbairains #mumbaimonsoon #manhole pic.twitter.com/5krJ18xxMi— Tanmaya Nanda (@tkn2104) July 2, 2019
The issue of manholes related incidents came into the spotlight after Dr. Deepak Amrapurkar, a renowned gastroenterologist, fell into a manhole and lost his life on September 1, 2017.
Spot a manhole? Tag @mybmc
One of the 68 tweets whose complaint was attended to is Hrishikesh (23), who had tweeted tagging the BMC when he spotted the lid of a manhole was getting dislodged by vehicles.
"I've been following the BMC handle for sometime and noticed they have been responding to tweets, tried it out and the response time is unbelievable," Hrishikesh told BOOM.
"Personally, appreciate the effort. They might be lagging behind on things, but this is a decent step forward."
Another Twitter user whose complaint was addressed is Advocate Trivankumar Karnani (28) who runs the Twitter handle @MNDCFBombay - Mumbai North Central District Forum which helps highlight public grievances.
"We have been reporting potholes and manholes that people spot and raise to us," Karnani said.
"The speed of redressal of complaints has drastically increased since earlier we would have to call the concerned municipal ward, register a complaint & follow up with the concerned departments to check if the complaint was redressed," he added.
MNDFC has raised around 15 manhole related complaints in the past one month to the BMC. These cases were brought to their notice by people on Instagram and Twitter, Karnani said.
Wards have to respond within 24 hours: Deputy Municipal Commissioner Chore
"This is the first time we have taken this step and have been getting a good response," Chandrashekhar Chore, Deputy Municipal Commissioner of the BMC told BOOM.
"We (BMC) tag the respected wards where the complaints have been raised," Chore said.
"Wards have to respond within 24 hours of the complaint being raised," he added.
Apart from MyBMC handle, the BMC has 24 ward specific handles on Twitter which citizens can tag depending on the area they reside in.
But while addressing queries raised through social media is a good move, will it be enough to ensure that no human life is lost in such accidents?
“Ideally for a civic body that has so much money at their disposal, there should not be any need for citizens to complain to BMC about open manholes. They should be fixed before monsoon. Having said that, their quick response on social media is quite welcome," said Tanmaya Nanda speaking to BOOM.
"The reach of social media has helped citizens to reach them faster rather than hoping to reach the officials through conventional means," added Nanda.