Even as his father Narayan Rane, a former chief minister during the Shiv Sena-BJP rule, is handling the industries portfolio in the Congress-led coalition government in Maharashtra, Nitesh Rane, 32, has launched a frontal attack on the Shiv Sena-dominated Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) through his militant Swabhiman Sanghatana, which has branches across Mumbai. Rane Jr spoke to dna’s city editor S Balakrishnan on his ongoing tussle with the Shiv Sena. Excerpts:
You recently slammed Sena leader and civic standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale, who talked of ending water shortage and promised free water to Mumbaikars. Why?
The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has been ruling the BMC for the past several years, but it has completely failed on several fronts, including water supply. With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, it is promising free water to hide corruption and mismanagement. At least 600 thousand million cubic (TMC) feet of water is pilfered by the water mafia with the full blessings of several Sena corporators and corrupt officials of the hydraulic department.
The stolen water is sufficient to cater to the needs of a city like Nagpur. Despite several complaints made by my organisation, the civic administration has not bothered to crackdown on the water mafia. There is a gang operating from Goregaon to Vasai which steals water from BMC’s water-filling centres. I had carried out a sting operation on this racket and submitted the CDs to senior BMC officials, but they are still to act. We caught water contractors stealing the precious liquid and handed them over to the police. But, the cops released them stating that there is no law under which these persons can be prosecuted. If there is no law against those stealing an essential commodity like water then we should have one.
What about the supply of water to buildings which do not have Occupation Certificates (OCs)?
This is another scam. There are several buildings which do not have the mandatory OC. The BMC is not supposed to give them water. Yet, it is being done. Also, it is now mandatory for all new buildings to have water harvesting systems. But many of them have such systems only on paper and yet they are given OCs. There is massive corruption behind the BMC’s inaction.
Sena has claimed it has done a lot in the area of public health and education. What is your take on that?
It is a standing joke. The number of cases of malaria and dengue is on the rise. Garbage pile ups have become the norm in the metropolis. Overflowing sewer lines are also a common sight.
Nothing has been done in this regard.
Sena leaders recently inaugurated new hospitals in Juhu and Kandivli and a trauma care centre at Jogeshwari with lot of fanfare. But the equipment in these hospitals have either not been installed or there are no doctors and technicians to man them. As for education, the virtual classroom started at a cost of Rs120 crore is nothing but a sham. The scheme has simply not taken off. The money has gone down the drain. The potholes continue to make driving hell for motorists. There is a nexus between the ruling alliance in the BMC and a syndicate of road contractors, and this is an open secret. Earlier, the Sena was sensitive to public criticism, but now it has become thick-skinned. It is adopting an ‘I don’t care a damn’ attitude. Road contracts are a huge source of income to the saffron alliance apart from water thefts and evasion of octroi. Corruption is killing the BMC.
Your father is a senior leader of the Congress. What prevents his party, which is ruling the state, from intervening in the affairs of the BMC to set things right?
There are legal limitations in this regard. There is a limit to which the state government can interfere in the affairs of a local body. It is for the people of Mumbai to revolt against the massive corruption that is going on in the BMC. Mumbaikars deserve good roads, a clean environment and good governance in the BMC. They have tolerated the gross mismanagement of the city for far too long.