The resilient city
THE WEEK|May 23, 2021
When faced with a looming oxygen crisis, Mumbai responded by changing its supply-based system to a storage-based one
POOJA BIRAIA JAISWAL

ON MAY 10, Mumbai’s municipal commissioner, Iqbal Singh Chahal, reportedly said even if there was a national lockdown, there was no need for it to be implemented in Mumbai. His optimism stemmed from a sharp decline in daily Covid-19 cases across the city—from 10,000 a month ago to under 2,000. The city’s daily test positivity rate, too, came down to 7 per cent from over 25 per cent in the first week of April. On May 9, Mumbai did not report a single death related to Covid-19. Exactly a month back, 31 people had died in 24 hours.

At a time when Covid patients across the country, especially in the national capital, are struggling to get oxygen, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s oxygen management has become a model of efficiency. The Bombay High Court suggested that administrators from within and outside Maharashtra emulate the “Mumbai model” (the situation in Pune is particularly concerning and cases are on the rise). The Supreme Court, too, hailed the BMC for its “remarkable work” and prodded the Delhi government and the Centre to consult Chahal.

“The kind of free hand I have is not easy to come by,” Chahal told THE WEEK. “You have to have full power [to take and implement decisions].” Since he took charge in May last year, the 1989 batch IAS officer has been at the top of his game, especially in communication. He would personally send messages to journalists daily, updating them about policy changes and statistics.

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