MUMBAI: Even as Mumbaikars bore the worst brunt of the rain fury that brought the city to a grinding halt, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, whose party runs the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), today said the civic body had done a "commendable job" in the given circumstances.
Amid allegations that the country's richest municipal corporation failed its citizens, who battled waterlogging and waded through waist-deep water to reach their destinations yesterday, Thackeray referred to the deaths of children at a Gorakhpur hospital in the BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh.
At a press conference, the Sena chief said instead of rushing to fix responsibility for the city coming to a standstill, one should talk about the lessons learnt from the Gorakhpur episode and ways to avoid its recurrence.
"The BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) has done a commendable job because of which, in spite of the city receiving about 300 mm of rainfall at some places (yesterday), there is no waterlogging today and the city is back on its feet in a day," Thackeray said.
Raking up the Gorakhpur incident, he said, "The news of 60 children dying in a hospital there has been washed away in the media reports on the rainfall in the city and the mayhem it caused. I pay my condolences to the children who died an unfortunate death and pray that such incidents do not take place in the future.
"Instead of debating who is responsible for the city coming to a virtual standstill, one should talk about the lessons learnt from the (Gorakhpur) episode and how to avoid such incidents in the future."
His comments are likely to raise hackles of the BJP, the senior partner of the Sena in Maharashtra and central governments.
The megalopolis received around 320 mm of rain yesterday, the heaviest on a single day since the July 26, 2005 record of 944 mm, which paralysed the city within a few hours.
The torrential rain plunged the city into chaos as water swamped houses and submerged roads and railway tracks, leaving thousands of people stranded at various places.
Thackeray said the BMC would hold health camps across the city starting tomorrow to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
The Sena chief also said the civic body would study the World Health Organisation's (WHO) norms and prepare a set of guidelines which would educate the people about the preventive medicines to be taken to keep water-borne diseases at bay.
"There will be BMC doctors and workers at the health camps and medicines will be provided in accordance with the symptoms. The effect of the preventive medicines will depend on the health of an individual, the time he spent wading through water etc.," Thackeray said.
Referring to yesterday's deluge that rekindled the memories of July 26, 2005, he said nine-km-long clouds were hovering above the city.
"The impact would have been much more severe had there been a cloudburst," he added.
Hitting out at the opposition parties, who alleged anomalies in the desilting works, Thackeray said those who claimed that nullahs were not desilted properly should go down the drains and check it for themselves.
"It is incorrect to say that the nullahs were not cleaned properly. They should go down the drains themselves and show us if they find silt. Yesterday, everyone, including the mayor, MLAs, BMC employees, Shiv Sainiks, helped the people immensely. However, we can fight nature only to a certain extent," he said.
BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, who was also present at the press meet, said there were fewer incidents of waterlogging, compared to the previous year.
"The Mithi river's lengthening and deepening was done appropriately and hence, there was no flooding this time," he added.
Earlier in the day, Leader of Opposition in the state Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde (NCP) held both the BJP and Sena responsible for "allowing Mumbai to sink".
"Uddhav Thackeray had assured that the city would not get waterlogged this monsoon. What happened to his tall claims?
Where have all the thousands of crores spent on the desilting works gone?" he asked.
"None of these parties has helped the people. It is the citizens who came to the rescue of their fellow citizens at the time of need," Munde said.
The NCP leader demanded a probe by a retired high court judge into the "thousands of crores" spent on desilting the nullahs of the city.