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‘Faced many challenges as Mayor… I tried to solve problems from the streets, not from my chamber’

"To monitor the Covid-19 situation, every night I used to visit safe homes and oxygen parlours to see if everything is in the right condition or not," said chairperson of administrative board of Kolkata Municipal Corporation Firhad Hakim.

Written by Atri Mitra | Kolkata |
Updated: December 18, 2021 4:59:47 am
Chairperson of administrative board of Kolkata Municipal Corporation Firhad Hakim. (Express photo)

Firhad Hakim, chairperson of administrative board of Kolkata Municipal Corporation and former Mayor, speaks to Atri Mitra on his tenure at the helm of KMC and his vision for the city.

You became Mayor of Kolkata at a crucial juncture.

When I became Mayor, (in November, 2018) within a few months, Covid-19 came to India. After that, lockdown. Then Cyclone Amphan came. I faced the challenges one by one.

In the initial days of the pandemic, even ambulance drivers were wary of taking patients to hospitals. Dead bodies were dumped at hospitals. Residents around crematoriums objected to bodies of Covid patients being brought for cremation.

We started cremation at our crematorium at Dhapa but some local residents of Dhapa pelted stones. They ransacked a van. Kolkata’s image took a hit. But we then reached out to people slowly and ensured that the cremation of Covid victims was done smoothly.

We also started sanitisation work across Kolkata. [Actor] Amitabh Bachchan also praised our work and said, “if Kolkata can, why not Mumbai?”

What were the challenges posed by Cyclone Amphan?

When we are just recovering from the Covid situation, Amphan came and within one night, all of Kolkata was affected. We accumulated our entire work force in one place. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee requested Odhisha for help. They sent a team of experts. Then, within 3-4 days, we were able to restore normalcy in Kolkata. Many people can criticise us but they should understand that when Amphan happened, my mayorship was not completed one year and this type of cyclone had not happened in Kolkata in the past 100 years or so. But we fought it unitedly and succeeded.

What is the biggest challenge you faced during your tenure as Mayor?

There were several. Now, we are facing challenge of substantial rainfall. I tried to solve problems from the streets, not from my chamber.

To monitor the Covid-19 situation, every night I used to visit safe homes and oxygen parlours to see if everything is in the right condition or not. Whether people are getting proper service or not. A former mayor (Shovan Chatterjee) may criticise me sitting in his residence but no one knows what he would have done if he had been in my situation.

The opposition is alleging that this board did not do enough to tackle waterlogging in
the city.

One has to understand that rain and nature seem to be changing pattern. In the past, we never saw such floods in Kedarnath and Badrinath. Never saw a situation where Chennai, Mumbai, and even Delhi and Ahmedabad are facing flooding.

You have to give time. We have been planning. We are exploring new ways to drive away water. We talked with irrigation department to dredge the canals, too.

If you are again elected as Mayor, what is your plan?

First, I aim to improve the city’s sewerage system and sort out the waterlogging problems. We will call up experts to review the sewerage system of Kolkata and then we need full-fledged planning for this.

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