Sucheta Dalal :Give Mumbai special status: Residents
Sucheta Dalal

Click here for FREE MEMBERSHIP to Moneylife Foundation which entitles you to:
• Access to information on investment issues

• Invitations to attend free workshops on financial literacy
• Grievance redressal


You are here: Home » What's New » Give Mumbai special status: Residents
                       Previous           Next

Give Mumbai special status: Residents  

August 5, 2005


Mumbai, Aug 4: Nature's fury that united the rich and poor in misery has sparked demands for a city status at par with Hong Kong for India's financial and movie capital. 


As Mumbai struggles to come to grips with the aftermath of the worst deluge in 100 years, helplessness is slowly giving way to anger.


The anger is borne mainly from a belated realisation that although Mumbai contributes a whopping Rs.58,000 crores (Rs.580 billion) to the Indian government's kitty, it gets peanuts in return for the city's upkeep.


And with Maharashtra's political class showing callous lethargy in response to last week's torrential rains and flooding, people from all walks of life are seeking that the city should be allowed to govern itself.


"Make Mumbai a state just as Delhi has become and allocate resources separately for it," says A. Kakkar, the CEO of Thomas Cook. "Or it should be treated as a Special Administrative Region like Hong Kong," he said.


Are we getting our money's worth - this is the question more and more Mumbaikars  as the people of the city are known - are asking.


Poor development of Mumbai, residents say, is going to cost the country very dearly. The deluge proved just that.


Already the city's cumulative losses have been put at billions of dollars. And this is only the preliminary estimate.


The worst hit were the poor, the more than five million who live in slums, providing cheap labour to the city and occupying, at times illegally, land that builders want to turn into high-rise buildings. Only months earlier, the city had begun demolishing homes of the poor, rendering many thousands homeless.


Naturally, there is mounting discontent against not just failed politicians but also the perennially greedy builders who have gone on a building spree without spending enough on infrastructure such as drains.


The clogged drains, built mainly during the British era and allowed to stagnate by successive city administrations, failed to bear the brunt of the torrential downpour. In the process, area after area across Mumbai simply went under water.


Unlike rural areas, the flooding of Mumbai - including densely populated areas inhabited by the middle class and the rich - meant the losses were immense.


Mumbai MP Murli Deora lashed out at the lack of elementary infrastructure in the city of 15 million people.


"Builders are playing havoc," he complained, echoing a widely held opinion. "No further reclamation of land should be allowed."


What has been galling was the complete collapse of the state government, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and every other authority in the wake of the costly and crippling deluge that even flooded the international airport.


Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who took maximum flak for the administrative failure to provide immediate relief to the people, admitted he had learnt "a good lesson" from the disaster.


But that is hardly soothing for angry residents who are demanding accountability for the nearly 1,000 deaths caused across Maharashtra, almost half of it in Mumbai.


The only positive thing that came out of the crisis is it once again proved the undying spirit of Mumbaikars. Cutting across linguistic and religious barriers, people in Mumbai came to one another's rescue in a manner unseen anywhere in India,producing individual and collective tales of courage and heroism.


A Muslim auto-rickshaw driver drove non-stop for 18 hours in knee-deep water ferrying stranded people and a Christian priest plunged into swirling waters and rescued people all night.


Parsis, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians joined hands to provide relief when the government and the political class failed."


{Source - India Abroad News Service}

-- Sucheta Dalal