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Is attending PM's nomination more important than lives of people: Cong asks Maha ruling alliance

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New Delhi, May 15 (PTI) The Congress on Wednesday questioned the ruling alliance in Maharashtra over Chief Minister Eknath Shinde leaving for Varanasi to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nomination filing within a day of the Mumbai hoarding collapse incident and wondered whether it was more important than the lives of people.

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Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh posed questions to Modi ahead of his rallies in Mumbai and Kalyan.

"Is the BJP scared of losing the BMC polls? Is the PM's nomination more important than Mumbaikars' lives? What is the BJP's vision to address Mumbai's air pollution? Why are Mumbai's local trains getting more crowded and unsafe?" he said in a post in Hindi.

Elaborating on what he called were "jumla details", Ramesh said the BMC has been functioning under an administrator's rule for over 18 months, the longest period in its 150-year history without elected representatives.

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"The Mahayuti government's repeated delays in holding the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections is a blatant attack on democracy and the rights of Mumbai's citizens. The government claims that the delays are due to issues like OBC reservations and ward delimitation, but the reality is that the BJP was afraid of facing the electorate, fearing that a loss would undermine its image before the Lok Sabha elections," he claimed.

"With the BMC under an unelected administrator, the ruling coalition has been using the civic body's funds and resources to benefit its own MLAs and supporters. Former corporators across parties have also highlighted issues like a lack of coordination, delays in developmental works, and lack of accountability due to the absence of local representatives," Ramesh claimed.

Without elected representatives, Mumbai's citizens have struggled to get their voices heard and grievances addressed by the BMC, he said.

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"Why has the BJP betrayed the people of Mumbai? How much longer do people have to wait to have their voices heard?" Ramesh asked.

He further said Modi is visiting Mumbai in the aftermath of the horrific death of 14 people in Ghatkopar on May 13 due to the collapse of a large, 250 tonne hoarding illegally put up on a property owned by the Railway Ministry.

"The illegal hoarding was on central government land, and the permission had been granted by the BMC, which is now administered by the NDA's state government. Within 24 hours of this horrific incident, even as some victims remained trapped under the debris, the chief minister of Maharashtra left for Varanasi to join the PM in his 'show of strength'," Ramesh said.

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"Does this attitude underscore Mr. Modi's priorities, of political calculations over the people's tragedies? Is attending the nomination of the PM more important than the lives of people?" he said. Ramesh further said Mumbai's air pollution has gone from bad to worse recently - as evinced by the dust storm that hit the city on Monday.

"This past winter was one of the most polluted winters on record. On some days, pollution levels exceeded those of even Delhi, which has long been notorious for its high pollution levels. While this sent alarm bells ringing for most residents, the Maharashtra government's efforts to tackle the issue have been woefully inadequate," he claimed.

In February, the Bombay High Court pulled up the government after a Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) report revealed that public projects like the Mumbai Metro, High Speed Rail and Coastal Road had repeatedly flouted pollution control norms, he said.

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The MPCB had issued a stop work notice to the High Speed Rail site in BKC in early November but similar violations were found just two weeks after work was allowed to resume, he said.

"At Coastal Road sites, air pollution sensors were found lying in the office, having never been used in work areas. This is especially worrying given how the government has failed to enforce pollution control norms at private construction sites, and even the court reprimanded them, asking 'What example are they (the Government) setting for others?" Ramesh said.

While earlier plans like the installation of air purification towers and the setting up of hyper-local AQI monitoring systems have not materialised, even the latest budget has not listed any new measures to combat air pollution, he said.

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Given the threat that air pollution poses to the lives of Mumbai's citizens, the Maharashtra government's callousness is appalling, Ramesh said.

"Does the PM not consider air pollution a serious issue? Why does his coalition government in Maharashtra continue to endanger the lives of Mumbai's citizens?" he said.

Ramesh also said that almost 7 people die on Mumbai's local trains everyday. "These trains, which are the lifelines of the city, have increasingly become infamous for their lack of safety and horrible overcrowding at peak hours. Despite how crucial the local trains are for Mumbaikars, they have suffered during PM Modi's Dus Saal Anyay Kaal," he said.

Last April, two major corridors under this project - the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT)-Panvel elevated fast corridor and the Virar-Vasai-Panvel suburban rail line were abruptly scrapped by the Centre, he said.

"Why has the Modi Sarkar neglected the lifeline of Mumbai? How many Mumbaikars are going to die because of the PM's inaction?" Ramesh said. PTI ASK ZMN

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