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‘London pill is unlikely to cure Mumbai’

His radical reforms have transformed London. But will Ken Livingstone’s recipe work in Mumbai? BMC commissioner Jairaj Phatak doubts it.

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‘London pill is unlikely to cure Mumbai’
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Phatak snubs Livingstone’s suggestion that the city needs a ‘people’s mayor’

His radical reforms have transformed London. But will Ken Livingstone’s recipe work in Mumbai? Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner Jairaj Phatak doubts it.

The London mayor had been harping on how a directly elected representative could work miracles for a city’s growth. But Phatak, who described himself as a professional city manager, said there was no foolproof evidence that cities having a mayor were better governed.

“Many in Mumbai feel that the city handled the 26/7 floods better than New Orleans, which has a directly elected mayor. Many cities in India, such as Lucknow and Kanpur, have directly elected mayors, while Kolkata has a Mayor in Council,” said Phatak at the Bombay First-organised conference, ‘London and Mumbai: Building global cities’.

“Greater Accra Council in Ghana is modeled in much the same way as Greater London Council. But there is no evidence that Ghana is doing better than India in terms of economic growth,” said Phatak. He added that the prevailing system of having a municipal commissioner had stood the test of time. “However, it is for the state
government to decide whether to have an elected mayor.”

Phatak differed with Livingstone on the latter’s decision to remove height restriction on London buildings.

The BMC chief said, “Providing space for vertical development might increase the available space per capita in Shanghai. But I doubt if that would hold true in Mumbai. Shanghai doesn’t have to cope with immigration problem. But here, such a measure would only increase population density.”

Earlier, Livingstone said that it would be easier for an empowered political representative to take decisions for a city’s growth. “India has the same administrative system as the UK.

While one can easily remove a political entity, it takes almost two years to remove a bureaucrat/manager from his post,” said Livingstone.

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