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Who is fighting for Mumbai?

As I picked up the newspaper today expecting more information on what more steps the outgoing RBI Governor Subbarao would take to curb inflation, I was greeted to my utter distaste by a synopsis of the verbal duel between MNS-Sena-Congress.

For all the heat being generated in this Mumbai-for-Marathis and Mumbai-for-India debate, no one in particular is actually fighting for Mumbai's own cause. The MNS-Sena is fighting for rights of Marathis in Mumbai, Congress-RSS for rights of non-Marathis in Mumbai. But no one is addressing the problems of the average citizen in Mumbai - Marathi or non-Marathi!

The BMC announced its annual budget yesterday - a news which got buried, thanks to the cacophony on Marathi Manoos issue [probably raised on purpose by the Sena to avoid attention to the budget]. The budget at best can be described as 'barely essential' if not insufficient. The budget of Rs 20,417 crore has shown an increase of merely 4 per cent in comparison to last year’s budget.

No new projects will be undertaken and a few projects such as concretising of roads, reconstruction of hospitals and underground parking lots at Crawford Market have been postponed[1]. No new taxes have been introduced, but the BMC in spite of being the richest Municipality in the country is in deficit of Rs 6000 Cr only to complete existing projects [2]. It is noteworthy that this is in spite of most projects being Build-Operate-Transfer or Public-Private-Partnerships[3].

Mumbai is the metropolitan of the country - contributes most in terms of national income, houses most people, packing them to maximum density, is situated in one of the country most environmentally critical zones, generates most employment - and is the largest city. Cities of the scale of Mumbai need a completely different set of infrastructure.

Similar cities across the world are equipped with several amenities like:
  • High density Rapid Transport systems such as Metro Train and trams
  • Focussed and highly empowered local governments (ex. Mayor Council)
  • Advanced civic amenities systems
  • Huge Parks and other citizen friendly city layouts. [PS: The Mumbai Eye - to be built on the lines of London Eye - does not find a mention in BMC Budget this year.]
Mumbai with its 22 million people has hardly any of the above. In comparison, Delhi - whether because of the commonwealth games or because of it being the seat of Central Govt - has all of the above. The recent spat between the Sena (which controls the BMC) and the Congress - is definitely not going to help bridge this gap.

The only people who in some way are trying to improve life in the city are citizen groups. Some of them are working on cleaning the city, protecting ecology, saving water, some to educate slums and some to spread democratic awareness. Last year the Juhu Citizens' Welfare Group (JCWG) also announced a citizens' consensus candidate for the Andheri (West) constituency.

But infrastructure development and governance reform cannot be brought about by standalone citizen groups. Politicians are the only agents who can bring about such large scale changes.

Unfortunately politicians from Maharashtra (with exception of Mr. Pawar) have increasingly limited themselves to the state, limiting their ability to negotiate funds for the state or for Mumbai as a city. The state and the city's politicians would serve a much better purpose if they establish themselves more firmly in the national political corridors they rather than roar in Dombivili.


  1. Since Morning even i was thinking that all the show which is currently going on in name of Marathi's - north Indian's and pakistani's but no one is at all interested what are the needs and demands of mumbaikar's and was planing to start a forum or a group where we can discuss on issues mumbaikar's are you think this is good idea... can you help me in this...

  2. I think their is tug of war between MNS and Sena regarding marathi manoos. Regarding the overall development of cities following should be done:
    A. JNRUM programe of Central Government is the best example for implementation of policies. It is based on reimbursement. Ist do it and then take the money.
    B. Just like CSR everyone should think of ISR (Individual Social Responsibility).Everyone should do something. eg. Putting garbage in dust bins rather than throwing on roads.
    C. The more powers should be given to local government.The person in charge should get punished if the work is not completed within time limit. Its a time consuming process.It will take nearly 10-15 years in India.


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