Cry, my beloved Mumbai!
By M.D. Kini
Cry, my beloved Mumbai, not for the ravaging floods as they are our annual regular visitors, but for the ravaging troika of politicians, builders and bureaucrats who made it possible. Politicians of all hues want to make money for themselves and their parties, Mumbai be damned! The builders want to make quick money without wasting even an inch of space for drainage and things like that, ecology be damned!
Bureaucrats want to ensure their promotions (and also make some money on the side), by bending, if not breaking, rules and regulations to ensure safe passage for the politicians and the builders. Rules and regulations, like promises made by politicians, are made only to be broken. A former municipal commissioner had once said, politicians used to make five per cent on all contracts earlier, which became 15 per cent at a later stage. A report on Thane Municipal Corporation a few years ago had revealed that about 35 per cent had to be shelled out to politicians and bureaucrats. How can such municipal works stand the floods?
This ravaging troika had the run of Mumbai for years, thanks to gullible voters who elect people of their caste, religion or region, not for development. So, who dumped Mumbai in the floods? The troika plus the voters.
Mumbai could still be saved if people are awakened. If these floods could not do it, nothing else will. Now is the time for all enlightened people of Mumbai to come together and chalk out a plan for its development. There cannot be an island of prosperity in the midst of floods. People of Malabar Hill and Pali Hill may have been saved from the floods, but not from the lack of milk, vegetables and other everyday needs. They never had to suffer much earlier and maybe now as well. They cannot sit in their ivory tower for ever. Sooner they get rid of ?us? and ?them? syndrome, better for all. Let them take notice: If Mumbai falls, all fall down.
And one more thing: Let Mumbai be Mumbai and it does not need any model, Singapore or Shanghai. Mumbai needs a vision where everybody counts and where everybody has a place. A report states that no woman was harassed and many people came forward to help stranded passengers in buses with biscuits and other eatables. An auto-rikshaw driver took care of his passengers in his house. There are many other tales of valour and civility, which should give us hope for the future. Yahi hai Mumbai meri jan!
Now is the time for all enlightened people of Mumbai to come together and chalk out a plan for its development.
JRD and other industrialists had a Bombay Plan for India. Let today'syoung industrialists including film stars, bankers, and others ask themselves. ?What have they done for Mumbai?? They can prepare a Mumbai Development Plan, not a grandiose one but one that gives better civic conditions for its people. Keep to knitting, to use the management jargon. Where there are no new ideas, new visions, people perish either in corruption or in floods or both.
There should be an election immediately for Mumbai Municipal Corporation where the only issue should be what each party is going to do for Mumbai'sdevelopment and nothing else. Let every party come with its own blueprint after consulting the town-planners, ecologists and the common people-drainage, sewerage, water supply, electricity, roadways, etc.
It is a shame that 60 per cent of the people live in slums, not because of the construction cost but because of land cost. It is possible to build houses for the poor people, ask Singapore. A Dutch construction company told me that it could construct two flats per day with its in-situ construction machinery.
Mumbai needs to be de-congested to be saved. Let there be many satellite towns. Let all the wholesale markets be shifted to Navi Mumbai. The daily commuting of millions in north/south direction in the morning and in the reverse direction in the evening can be reduced by shifting all the major government and private sector offices to the suburbs or to Navi Mumbai. Having all jobs in the Fort Area does not add to the efficiency at all. With the telecommunication revolution (mobile, computer, internet, etc) the whole world is a village now. The government can give tax concessions to shift.
Building a Third Mumbai on the mainland would not only de-congest Mumbai, it would develop the mainland. This new city planned in every detail could be the 21st century Mumbai. It should be a self-contained city where people live and work, not commute to work. There could be a banking district, where all major banks can have offices or head-offices, which can become a major financial centre like Hong Kong, Singapore or London. There could be a hi-tech district where technology industry could be located. There could be a biotech district.
All the MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Area) should be one Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation (GMMC). Each district should have an elected small assembly with a mayor. GMMC should be a federation with these mayors as the members who can elect a chairman. All the development projects have to be prepared by an expert committee and monitored by a voters? committee
The final question arises. How to fund these developments? Huge Dalton, economist and former Chancellor of Exchequer in the Atlee government in UK, had given an answer long ago. Problem of public finance is not of raising money but spending it. If the money is well spent, raising funds is not going to be problem at all.
(The author can be contacted at [email protected] or at 133, Bond Street, Bridgewater, NJ 08807.)