Monday, August 01, 2005

Mumbai - Where does she go from here?

Charles Correa has made a very important point in his article in TOI (What Mumbai wants? A Chief Minister - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshowbnews/msid-1188367,curpg-1.cms ). I agree with Correa. Mumbai is too big, too important and the relation between this metropolis and the state of Maharashtra is skewed one. It is correctly pointed by Correa that Maharashtra Legislature and CM would not have interests of Mumbai in their mind. They are answerable to the State and hence Mumbai gets the second fiddle despite the fact that it is mostly contributing more to the kitty of Maharashtra State.

Also if Mumbai is made bit independent politically, the Center would have more vested interest to interact directly with Mumbai and may give more money also. In today's world if Mumbai is expected to compete with Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai; the issue of more dynamic political structure is vital. Otherwise, it is almost sure that some more crisis instances like July 2005 Mansoon and BSE and Financial hub will move out; same for Bollywood - the two important engines of Mumbai will go away.

The problem is tricky - if Mumbai becomes Union Territory it will be a painful and needless divorce with the state of Maharashtra. But obviously it needs more room than what it gets now. Electing CEO of Mumbai directly will be very effective, but how does it fit with the overall Political Structure of India where legislature gets the primacy?

One option could be move the capital of Maharashtra state to Nagpur and give some additional financial and administrative freedom to Mumbai in turn. Subsequently BMC can give more power to a commissioner or mayor or may create a new post. Change is needed and it is clear that Maharashtra state legislature body will be the last one to do so since they would be the looser. They need to be loosers is the fact. Current CM has been the crowning glory in the long line of those shameless CMs who simply milk Mumbai for their political benefits but refuse to have more imaginative and reciprocal approach to the problems of Mumbai. So BMC and Mumbaikars need to take initiative in asking for more independence here. Needless to say, the City has the gumption, energy and resources to deal it’s problems. May I say that Mumbaikars need to be bit vocal here in putting their interests first than the interests of the state of Maharashtra? For too long, Mumbai has been a silent giver to all. She is grown and needs to tend to herself first.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA
August 1, 2005.

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