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Azadi for Mumbai


Mumbai stopped growing circa 2001. Its current population of 12.4 million people, half of whom now live in slums, is smaller than it was in 2001. That for Mumbaikars is the good news. The bad news is that despite the lack of burgeoning numbers, Mumbai’s problems in things like transportation, sanitation, water, air quality, and living spaces continue to deteriorate. Mumbai just went to the polls to elect a new civic administration. Only 46 percent of its denizens turned out to vote. No prizes for guessing that most of those who voted were from the slums. The other half chose to stay at home. If there is such a thing as the ‘Mumbai Spirit’, it does not extend beyond the middle and upper class drawing rooms to reach the polling booths. The question then is: why is Mumbai’s most enterprising class cut off from its roots in a city that gave it its dreams?

Mumbai once contributed almost a third of India’s direct taxes to the national exchequer. The ratio has fallen since the 1980s but is still close to 20 percent. In other ways too Mumbai is fabulously rich by India’s standards. In recent years it has yielded its place to other cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, even Delhi as the centre that attracts new enterprises because of its dysfunctional infrastructure and sky-high real estate prices. In fact, the world’s highest real estate prices are driving existing businesses out of the city. Job creating sectors like the software services, process outsourcing, call centres and the like have long deserted Mumbai for other cities. No wonder then that new immigration to the city has petered out. Nevertheless, Mumbai is still home to India’s financial services industry, Bollywood, the creative media world and a whole host of high value-added business that can afford to be in Mumbai despite its high overhead costs. But these are there for historical reasons and living off old investments in real estate. Could the city support such ventures at current costs? Mumbai faces an existential crisis that its denizens wilfully continue to ignore.

Mumbai’s citizens are not their own masters despite the trappings of a democracy. The national electoral constituencies have not been revised for population since the 1950s. Mumbai is grossly under-represented both in Maharashtra and at the Centre. The city was effectively captured by its hinterland after the formation of the Maharashtra state. Since the 60s, politicians from the Western Maharashtra farming belt have ruled over the state. And in the process, they have used Mumbai’s resources to develop their constituencies, underinvesting in the city’s infrastructure even as the city played host to poor migrants from far and near. Today, nearly six million of those poor migrants live in slums. They are there not for lack of resources within Mumbai or India but an utter lack of imagination in the city’s intelligentsia. The net result is that apart from corporate pressure on the government for business-related infrastructure, there is absolutely no pressure on the state and central government to reform its ways and address the city’s multifarious problems. Politics has failed Mumbai.

Mumbai’s problems are incorrectly diagnosed as lack of space stemming from its being a narrow island. That is a mental block hung over from the dark days when technology to build trans-harbour links was expensive or non-existent. Nine kilometres as the crow flies from the Gateway of India, is the mainland with unlimited spaces to spread out much like Delhi or even Pune. The first order of business in Mumbai is to create land through a trans-harbour link and bring down real estate prices relative to other major cities. Politicians with extensive real estate holdings in the city are understandably reluctant to reform. Nevertheless, the developed mill properties they hold will be sold out and they are buying land on the mainland. Mumbai’s intelligentsia needs to accelerate the process. This can be done by focused civic action.

To retain and attract high valued-added jobs, in design, engineering, creative media, financial services and entertainment, the biggest attractor is the quality of life offered to the people who work in these industries. Simply put, these relate to education, transportation, housing, and infrastructure. If Mumbai wants the best job and business opportunities available, then it has to offer the best it can in these areas. The problem is not as difficult and daunting as it looks. Each of these problems is fairly easily resolved if only we focus on them in a rational way.

To begin with, Mumbai needs to ‘defreeze’ its irrational land use policies and let the market forces play a role in promoting mobility within the city and within its society. Its archaic rent act, of which the government itself is the major abuser, needs to be abolished. Property laws need rationalising with reference to the modern mode of living and its governance. Modest but rational property taxes based on current market values, with no exemptions whatsoever, will generate powerful economic impulses for people to relocate within the city keeping in mind where their jobs and schools are and what their income is. As an incentive to the poor, all existing residents in the slums must be given marketable titles to whatever they live on with the freedom to either sell or exchange for apartments that could be built for them. The outgo on property taxes will also compel business to relocate to where they are viable economically. No bureaucrat needs to sit in on the judgement on who goes where. Businesses from eateries to carpentry, auto-repairs to fish sorting, all will relocate with profits to themselves. The Port Trust of India, faced with a tax bill on the market value of its holdings, will melt away faster than an iceberg in Mumbai’s summer. And all of this will bring property prices down sufficiently to yield enough of a surplus to build the trans-harbour link without too much strain.

Parking in Manhattan, New York, is about $ 16 per hour or about Rs 6,400 per day. The cost of parking a car at $ 40,000 per year is far more than the price of a new car and reflects the real cost to the city of providing that much space to it. Parking on Mumbai’s public roads is free! That illustrates the utterly irrational and wasteful way in which we price our facilities because we have not modernised our system with changing times. Funds for a world-class public transport system can be found by simply raising parking fees in a graded manner in the city. Likewise, on current costs no new school in Mumbai is economically viable. You would need to charge a tuition fee that exceeds the parent’s income for it to be so because of bloated real estate prices. The city needs to rethink schooling by zoning kids in each neighbourhood. Compelling Ambani’s kids to go to the same school as the slum dwellers in Cuffe Parade is a guaranteed way to get world-class schools in each neighbourhood. And it promotes real meritocracy by giving children equality of opportunity.

All this will not happen if Mumbai’s middle and upper class citizens will not take things in their own hands. So the first order of business should be to demand an executive mayor for Mumbai with full power over the city’s property laws, transportation, taxes, land use and the like. The mayor of Paris is usually the country’s next president. Why should Mumbai be any different? Azadi (freedom) should be Mumbai’s war cry!

The writer is a trader. She can be reached at sonali.ranade@hotmail.com or @SonaliRanade on Twitter

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Shaanse00
    February 28, 2012 at 6:04 am

    Nice Article Sonali.. I always thought that the British should have retained control over Bombay, as they did with Hongkong..Bombay would have continued its capitalist nature, with the rest of India going the poverty creating socialist way..

    Now also there is chance..Declare Bombay separate from Maharashtra..Declare entire Bombay as SEZ.. Directly elect the Mayor, give her sweeping powers.. allow her to pitch for FDI..

    I think the Govt should send MPs and MLAs to visits to Chinese cities and meet the Mayors there..This should open their eyes (optimism!)..Just like Deng’s eyes were opened after visiting Lee Kuan Yev & his Singapore in 1978..

  2. Shailesh sharma
    February 29, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I don’t think the low poll percentage is due to absence of middle & high class! Infact you go & get the ground reallity that all those who live in slums have not voted!!! Frankly speeking if they have voted Sena-MNS & BJP never benifits…. Everyone now they play marathi manush card & this time they have been saved by UP polls!! Mumbai poll collided with polling in eastern UP!! Get all those immigrant number & u’ll get the real result!!! These migrants have double Voting ID cards… Me too!!! So stop crying for mumbai coz i dn’t think u even know mumbai & mumbaikars!

  3. March 2, 2012 at 7:41 am

    under British was partitioned along religion lines and Pakistan was created out
    of India and all the Muslims were told to migrate to their homeland and all Hindus
    were told to migrate to Hindu India and in that migration communal holocaust
    erupted killing millions of Hindus and their property looted by the barbaric Muslim
    killers, hindu women were raped and kidnapped, children and kids were brutally
    killed on swords and arrows. But India was made as a secular nation only for
    the majority of Muslims left thereafter in India who preferred to remain India’s
    where does Hindus abdicated their responsibility .they had helped all Muslim brethrens
    by benevolence and affection.muslims of Hindu India were never treated as 2nd
    class citizen in India by people.The govt has also accepted all their demands
    of creating their separate Muslim personal law, aligarh Muslim university and
    all their mosques and prayer halls were given all due respect and love. But in Pakistan
    the Hindus were treated as 3rd class citizens, their temples destroyed and burnt,
    their property encroached forcibly,govt kept silent seeing all the insults and humiliations.
    So the Indian Muslims of 20 crores need not fear as the Hindus are benevolent
    and friendly if they would remain friendly, if they did go against them then
    the fire of volcanoes would erupt again.

  4. March 2, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Muslims must come to mainstream from their self imposed exile. They must remove congress and all other parties who champion their causes only on speech but done nothing for muslims.They had made Muslims as sacrificial goat in last 64 years of partition. Still they uses them as vote banks but never cared to do anything for them. Duration of 74 years is not a joke or small time to achieve any goal if they would have initiated any fruitful action. They must be prepared to assimilate with Hindus who have accepted them as their brothers in development. No Muslims country had allowed so many facilities to Hindus in their country as a Hindu majority India has done so with the minority muslims.TV Films Theatre has maximum of Muslim faith actors and actresses. Our army is secular where Muslims and Christians get the same rank and file as of a Hindu. In administration they are in high pedestals. In education sectors they also created their name and fame by their highest quality. But still they think that they are minorities. If one thinks itself as negative they would remain negative. They need to get out of their shells and became partners in progress in India. Their motherland is India and they can’t go elsewhere and India also could not remain as a country without them. But they must have to abandon their negative attitude and relinquish vote bank mentality. They must come out of their self imposed exile and built a new India. If Muslims would think themselves as citizens of India they would progress and develop. They must have to remove their negative mentality and root out their low confidence. In many cases a few youths from Muslims clan get brainwashed by the propaganda by Pakistan ISI and Dawood to wage war on India and kill innocents but they should think that they are doing more harm to their clan and religion. They are doing harm to India who has given them all and everything. It is their foremost duty to come out of their cocoons and built a super power India. Many Muslims were presidents of India in past like F.A.Ahmed,Dr. APJ Abul Kalam as president of India. Many scientists are from Islam and many are in the fields of journalism. We are proud to have M.J.Akber as a great editor. We are having Dillipkumar and sharukhkhan, salman khan,waheeda rahman,meenakumari as actresses,actors.India is a mixture of hindu islam tahzib and all should vow to remove communalism from their minds. If Muslims would abdicate their so-professed anti Hindu stand they would be great achievers. CONGRESS, NCP, RJD, SP, BSP, TMC, LJP have used them as toilet papers.

  5. March 2, 2012 at 7:44 am

    is a party of slaves who do not utter a single word without queen’s orders.
    They are destroying all democratic institutions by falsehood and insinuations.
    The day India would remove congress and queen out of India, India would be free
    and 2nd freedom would ensure total liberation. We want total freedom from the
    clutches of congress and its queen for all times so that we can build our own
    fortunes. They are making their own fortunes by looting India for 61 years from
    1950 to 2011.they have divided the Hindus by communal and caste lines. They
    should know that all over world Hindus are not treated as a religion but 2nd
    and 3rd class citizens. They have no liberty. In Pakistan all their temples,
    gurudwaras are destroyed and occupied. They have to leave Pakistan by torture
    and forcible evictions. They have been made 3rd class citizen in Pakistan. But
    in India they are enjoying super class citizenships. Some Infidels are saying
    that they are first citizens of India as congress has allowed them all its powers
    as they have given them solid votes of 15% and Hindus are cowards, impotents
    and slaves who lick their feet and gives sell their votes on bribe.100 crores
    of Hindus of India had sold their votes to congress BSP,SP,RJD, RLD, LJP, ML,
    DMK NCP,TMC,JDS who are slaves of
    Muslims in India but they never cared for 100 crores Muslims from whom they had
    taken vote but torturing them. Shame on Indian Hindus who do not know the power
    of their votes and are slaves of moghuls, Britishers and congress for centuries.
    It is now destined that Hindu religion would die the unnatural and suicidal ultimate
    death as it has no future and they are die hard corrupts and bootlickers of
    foreigners. They need it as they are never grown up from slave mentality. Weak
    have no role in India. Defensives are defeatists.aggressives is winner.

  6. March 2, 2012 at 7:45 am

    People who lives in Ivory
    towers got blank in elections. If the money could buy votes all the corporate
    honchos may have been in LS.Why they go to RS by paying 30 to 40 crores to
    parties who gave them votes.People want action and if any party could not
    provide basic necessities to people they would withdraw their authority to
    them.If India would have been a autocratic form of Govt congress would not have
    been defeated so many times. Still it is in a fool’s paradise. The way it has
    behaved in the last 7 years and also now doing pretty little for poor but huge
    for riches Indira Gandhi’s 21 point programmes would be nothing.The Poor are
    not so poor now and also not so idiots as Congress thinks. If a Bihar and TN
    can do it all other states can also do it to remove Congress with a broom.
    Assam is nothing in comparison to all India phenomena which Congress are citing
    in each and every column.In Assam there is a vacuum in Opposition parties and
    the coalition between AGP and BJP was not done which made them redundant. But
    TN and Pondicherry shows the way.In Kerala the win by Congress is nothing
    spectacular as they are proud of.In WB the win is of TMC not of Congress. If it
    would have fought single handedly it would have been wiped out.
    It was a
    negative vote against CPM and left parties and any party which shows it self as
    a alternative get the mandate. But it is written all over India on walls that
    congress has lost the confidence of voters by its unethical and corrupt ways.It’s
    autocratic arrogant and over confident mindset would drown it.The way Sonia
    Gandhi playing with the sentiments of Voters of india she is bound to fail
    next.BJP is waiting for an opportune moment when it would strike back with full
    force on Congress and its policies of corruption,anti hindu,anti Indian
    pro-pakistani stands.

  7. March 2, 2012 at 7:48 am

    In our country we are supposed to be safe as we believes in non-violence and have won our freedom in that platform.our gandhijee has taught us to be peace loving as he belongs to the state of gujarat which is highly peacelving people in world.Gujrat is known as a mini america all over teh country as many people from gujrat has enriched american culture and economy.but the riits of 2002 has become a nightmare in the eyes of gujrat people.the truth has forgotten by teh so called secularists and human right activists like mrs teesta shetalvad,mallika sarabhai have been engaged in spraeding lies and untruths.The 2002 Gujarat violence describes the Godhra train burning and resulting communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. According to media reports,on 27 February 2002 at Godhra City in the state of Gujarat, the Sabarmati Express train was forcibly stopped and attacked by a large Muslim mob. As a result , 59 Hindu passengers — mostly women, children and seniors returning from the holy city of Ayodhya — were burned alive. The resulting riots and massacres killed 794 Muslims and an additional 254 Hindus. 223 people were reported missing and 2,548 sustained injuries. 523 places of worship were damaged: 298 dargahs, 205 mosques, 17 temples, and 3 churches. Muslim-owned businesses suffered the bulk of the damage. 61,000 Muslims and 10,000 Hindus fled their homes. Preventive arrests of 17,947 Hindus and 3,616 Muslims were made. In total 27,901 Hindus and 7,651 Muslims were arrested. Nearly 10,000 rounds of bullets were fired by the police, killing 93 Muslims and 77 Hindus.

  8. March 2, 2012 at 8:16 am

    We feel our self proud that our own Gandhijee has fought with British govt silently with non violent agitation and brought freedom to our country from the chains of bondage. But it is our misfortune that we had been remained as bondage to the congress party and they are exploiting the sentiments of our people by dividing them on caste, creed,race,religion lines.
    We are divided by caste by the constitution makers by giving the unprivileged the separate status and giving reservation to them in the constitution.Althugh the step seems to be realistic in many ways and also worked for the betterment of these communities but the reservation system which was meant for a specific period was extended many times and continuing till date. Above all the Mandal commission was constituted to grant reservation to the weaker section of society but it has opened up a Pandora’s box by advocating granting special status to the other backward castes .This has created a serious division in the Hindu society and they were divided and fighting among themselves. It was a political masterstroke by Mr.V.P.SINGH to vanquish congress as he had some deep hatred for congress but he cannot do enough damages.
    Congress was a party of national leaders till Nehru was alive and thereafter it got only the political demagogues. None of the leaders who had ascended the throne in Delhi after Rajiv Gandhi can be called a true national leader. MR.P.V.N.RAO,H.D.DEVE GOWDA,VP SINGH,CHANDRASEKHAR,I.K.GUJARAL are leaders of lesser importance who are just passing the time in gap as the PM . Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a good PM but he cannot establish his stamp on the govt as he was pressurized by the hardliners in his party. Now we have Mr.Man Mohan Singh who is weak and unfit PM as he is being camouflaged by the US, Pakistan and china as well as Sonia.We need a strong, efficient PM who should have the personality to talk tough, work tough and act tough.
    Mr.Narendra Modi has all these qualities which should have been in a politician, diplomat,nation builder.He is like the iron man Sardar Ballabh Bhai Patel, who has worked brilliantly to unite india.He has the qualities of Bishmarck,Napolean and Alexander.But Congress party and some NGO’s are trying their level best to tarnish his image to paint him as a dragon.He can save the country from anarchy,chaos and breaking point.
    We need his services in centre and national politics.He should be brought to national politics by the BJP high command and entrust him the works of going to each and every corner of india in the next four years and fill all the people with patriotism and nationalism and fighting qualities.

  9. March 2, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Kashmir is a hindu state since time imemorial.it was invaded by muslim invaders and occupied by them.hindu raja was king of kashmir till its merger with india in 1948 when he signed deed of accession.so where does any contradiction arise. Even if it was a muslim majority it doesnot allow them any right to ask for freedom.they were never neglected and all these years see proper election to the state and it is integrated with indian federation.but pakistan based terrorists and isi are trying to seccede kashmir from india.they want to break india into pieces as they want to avenge their seccession of bangladesh.also china is a partner in their conspiracy.it is provoking them with all the arms supplies and nuclear help.it is the duty of indian govt to declare emergency in kashmir,arrest all the secessionists,hurriyats and criminals,close the borders with pok and pak.handover the areas under “disturbed areas act” to army and allow normal life.there is no soft option.we have to remove a nail by a nail.we cannot get what our pm declares that talk will endure,but what would be agenda of that talk when they declare that they donot want to talk beyond their demand of azadi.let the govt forget about talk and enforce internal emergency in kashmir. What plebiscite these pakistanis talk about?it is simply a talk of madness .when the state has conducted several elections from 1948 every five year to asssembly and parliament and they vote for their own govt ,why there is any contardiction and predicament.the people had accepted india as their home land except a few anti india and pakistan sponsored terrorists and isi agents.we have seen teh hospitality of kashmir people when we goes to that part of teh countryt and also the yatra to amarnath.but these people brainwashed by pakistani jehadi elements never understand that all is not well in pakistana dntheir deamnd for inclusion with pakistan is dangerous for them.india is one democratic country and it is working for the bettrment of teh people in kashmir.but the same forces who want to balkanize india sowed teh seeds of hatred in the minds of some youths and kids.kids are being paid to throw stones to forces.they wat that theyw oud equal in targeting indian forces as the Palestine forces targeting Israel forces and it is called intifada.so it is nothing but one dangerous game in which the poor and innocents are being grinded.we hope the sane voice of all party team would culminate a new era of happiness and intelligence among the residents of kashmir .if it would fail then it would be too traumatic for them and also the govt may not be able to salvage the situation and army may be handed over teh full control with emergency and blockades.

  10. March 2, 2012 at 8:29 am

    I am a westerner and a born Christian. I was mainly brought up in catholic schools, my uncle, Father Guy Gautier, a gem of a man, was the parish head of the beautiful Saint Jean de Montmartre church in Paris ; my father, Jacques Gautier, a famous artist in France, and a truly good person if there ever was one, was a fervent catholic all his life, went to church nearly every day and lived by his Christian values.

    There are certain concepts in Christianity I am proud of : charity for others, the equality of system in many western countries, Christ’s message of love and compassion….Yet, I am a little uneasy when I see how much Christianity is taking over India under the reign of Sonia Gandhi :

    According to a 2001 census, there are about 2.34 million Christians in India,not even 2.5% of the nation, a negligible amount. Yet there are today five Christian Chief ministers in Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

    One should add that the majority of politicians in Sonia Gandhi’s closed circle are either Christians or Muslims. She seems to have no confidence in Hindus.
    1.Ambika Soni, a Christian, is General Secretary of the Congress and a very powerful person, with close access to Sonia Gandhi.
    2.Oscar Fernandez is Union Programme Implementation Minister. Margaret Alwa is the eminence grise of Maharashtra.
    3.Karnataka is virtually controlled by AK Anthony, whose secretaries are all from the Southern Christian association.
    4.Valson Thampu, a Hindu hater, is Chairman NCERT curriculum Review Committee.
    5.John Dayal, another known Hindu baiter, has been named by Sonia Gandhi in the National Integration Council ; and
    Kancha Ilaya, who hates Hindus, is being allowed by the Indian Government to lobby with the UN and US Congress so that caste discrimination in India is taken-up by these bodies. (One can also add to list Ajit jogi, and Digvijay Singh both Christian converts & also Prannoy Roy, his niece Arundhati ‘Suzanna’ Roy )
    I have nothing personally against Sonia Gandhi, in fact she probably is a good person to win the allegiance of so many and certainly a loving mother. I share with her a love for India, like her I have lived in this country for over 30 years and like her I have married an Indian.

  11. May 25, 2012 at 4:17 am

    Completely agree with the author. My list of changes to improve Mumbai are:
    1) Shift the state capital out of Mumbai to Pune/ Nasik/ elsewhere
    2) Make Mumbai a separate State/ autonomous region, like NCR. This will give focus to the city problems and balance the incomes with required investments.
    3) Give sufficient surrounding area to the city for proper growth.
    4) Make the BMP, Mumbai Police and other civic bodies strong and autonomous.
    Once this is done in 5-10 years we can see dreams of becoming an Asian financial center and super Port (like Singapore) being fulfilled.
    Cheers, Punit Jain, http://www.jainmatrix.com

  12. July 1, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Very nice article Ms Ranade – appreciate. Mumbai can grow when we have a leader with Vision and the Will to Execute. The Congress NCP are too busy fighting amongst themselves to worry about the city or its people. Ask someone in the Govt why the Urban Development Ministry in Maharashtra is the most prized one? Also ask why it is the Congress that has held this ministry for the last 2 terms (correct me if wrong) and given key ministeries like finance, home to the NCP. There lies the answer! Look forward to similiar stimulating articles.

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