This was carried by the Indian Express as a supplement titled ‘Rebuilding Mumbai’, on Page 3 on Saturday, May 1. The purpose of the supplement was to print ‘Ideas to boost the revival of India’s financial and entertainment nerve centre’
Cities as we know them now are successors to erstwhile trading posts or industrial hubs that came into existence following the industrial revolution and subsequent trend of urbanisation. People thronged to the cities for the infrastructure they offered. So what is infrastructure??
The origin of the term infrastructure, can be traced to betwen 1925-30 and it typically encompasses technical structures like roads, watersupply, sewers,power, telecommunications, schools, hospitals,etc. In simple words it is the machinery which supports the trade, livelihood and lifestyle in society. Since a large number of citizens pay(municipal) taxes we expect this machinery to be well oiled.
Even though the modern city of Mumbai is heavily dependent on ‘Bombay Age’ infrastructure it has a lot going for it . Uninterrupted power for starters. An exemplary bus network. A pioneering network of skywalks.Even though the local train network is bursting at it seams, one cannot take away it’s efficiency. Cabs and autos that actually run on a meter. (Having lived in Delhi , I know only too well the horrors of the former.)An efficient police force that has resulted in one of the lowest crime rates in the country.
Unfortunately this is clearly not enough. Not enough to support the population of this city. Not enough if we want it to be a world class city.
For the amount of revenue the administration generates from municipal, property and road taxes alone, the facilities provided are clearly imbalanced and inadequate when compared to other mega cities like London and New York. Ironically, our property rates( and thus the taxes) are amongst the highest. Clearly the BMC cannot hide behind a veil of excuses when cities like Delhi and Hyderabad are progressing rapidly taking into account future growth, despite facing similar issues like mass migration and high population. Every mega city in the world attracts migrants in huge numbers.
So what is the solution? The BMC needs to be accountable to the public. There needs to be complete transparency in their annual revenue and expenditure incured. Innovative projects like the Skywalk are a good start. Much needs to be done in the realm of cleanliness and sanitation. Public toilets are a basic necessity.
Longterm and short term roadwork projects have to be planned taking into account the future growth of the city. The Bandra-Worli-Haji Ali-Nariman Point seal link is a must. By augmenting connectivity from far off suburbs like Navi Mumbai and Dahisar to Central Mumbai infrastructure load can be reduced. A mass transportation network connecting the new secondary airport should be planned and implemented well advance.
A lot needs to be done to control pollution, to promote solar energy and rainwater harvesting and promote a cleaner healthier enviroment.
Nothing however is possbile till we demand accountability and elect the right representatives. And how do we do that? By making an effort to check the credentials and past record of those seeking to be elected would be helpful. Lastly, we need to make an individual effort at promoting better civic sense to instill a sense of pride in our city.