Rebuilding Mumbai

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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.

Gul Panag

7 Comments on “Rebuilding Mumbai”

  1. Sharad Bapat

    Well written and thought of article, just that it got pasted twice 🙂 never mind happens to best of us. copy paste is such a luxury.

    All this requires a Change, and it is but natural of human to resist change.
    Electing right representative? Well I guess we cannot do much if choice is limited, do we elect the lesser devil?
    or do we propose an amendment and have a minimum qualification for standing in elction? but again will qualification be enough? can we trust that one who are qualified will not be corrupt?

    Why not we question MPs who in one elction show their earning/revenue in 1000s and once they are elected in the next election they become crorepatis? why dont we question them on how did they get all this money from? why does not IT raid them? when their official source of earning is just the MP salary?

    Guess how much India is spending on keeping the sole surviving 26/11 Pakistani terrorist alive and healthy in prison? Over Rs 30 crore and counting. A tax payers money is going to keep alive who took thousand lives just so that we can prove the world that India is a “just” country.

    My heart pours out to many who sleep hungry just outside the arthur jail where we are spending crores on a terrorist.

    A lot of change is required. Some one has to come and speak.
    Instead of talking day and night about Lalit Modi, IPL , Sania-Shoaib wedding we should do something.

    It is time to act. not just speak.

    sadly I am a culprit to.. just talks and no act 🙁

    I guess have wrote enough, dont even know if u are going to read it, let alone expect a reply.

    Nice article though, valid points.


    Note: By the time I am posting this , the article is only appearing once 🙂

  2. Niranjan Gosavi

    Dear Gulji:
    point well taken, however i still am of the opinion that the city needs to free itself from the migrants who create nuisance value.. this city needs great infra., however the infra providers are the ones who rule the city. do you know the biggest construction houses have the big netas supporting them whole heartedly. one will always see delayed progress in the setup as the cost and prices have to go up.. i am referring to the road makers and the flyover makers.. see the amount of jay walkers.. they are everywhere in mumbai.. a better footpath will end those woes.. however the footpath needs to be freed of the hawkers! i was recently traveling on the western express highway and i noticed the subways created just at the bandra signal.. they are in such a shoddy state that one really needs to walk up to the BMC and slap the guy across responsible for this mess.
    have you noticed that the roads are in a pathetic state right at the RED light? thus increasing the time for a vehicle to cross the signal.
    i am more worried about the city from the ROADS infrastructure.. if the ROADS are fine.. then the city will prosper! look at the hoardings in the city.. how many of them.. obtaining a license to erect a hoarding is very very very minimal.. the income is perhaps 100 or may be 1000 times.. now; why cant the govt levy a road making tax.. to all the billboards companies that will help them create income for them to have a better infra? tax them higher for better roads.. tax them much higher for much better roads. that way the value of the billboards will go up.
    i would say that the city is ruled by the contractors and hence the development will happen the way they want and not you and me. it is painful but transparency will bring a great deal of speed.. in UK whn a construction is going on they make sure that they inform the people about the reason and the time it will take to complete.. now thats what i call transparency..
    also one more submission.. why is the film industry in Mumbai? why cant a similar infra be created in Delhi? or Punjab? look at the NDTVs and the ZEEs of the worlds.. have they not created a state of the art production houses? i am sure the film industry can setup another competing shop in Dehi too.

  3. Darpan

    This article not only talks about the rebuilding of Mumbai but also questions that at what extent a development could go in a city that is meant to be the frontier of development. Its a challenge for gov. to show an exemplary attempt to nurture the best and most needed area that is counted as major developing zone of the country. Mumbai has not been recognized in our country just for population but for the opportunities and development ,In other words for country’s identity that so much depends on city like mumbai. The administration has to embark on this onerous task but after satisfying the mass,the biggest resource of country and city. That could only be done by avoiding the communal and discriminatory issues that has recently tarnished the image of state leaders. On Niranjan’s view, I would like to say that a city cannot dreamt of development without migrants. The ants will always attract towards sweets and without them, sweet would no longer be considered as something that is best of all. The development is about satisfying the population under the available resources and then one could walk along the legitimate path of development. Overall the article if great with effortless writing. Thanx for sharing this.

  4. Your fan

    I agree sharad. He as well written. But I do agree with his last sentence also, that we just speak up and are not able to do anything.
    If any one of us speaking and sharing these thoughts of taking actions against injustice and coruptions will get a chance to prove themselves then are we sure that we will do that thing? Have we ever tried to go into the situation or attempted to improve the system. I think no!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Anyways hope that this shares may change someones mind and he implements to system.

    Best regards.

  5. sachin

    i guess comments of your readers are bigger than your post.. 🙂

  6. Tahir kazi


    Mumbai will developed itself…its an money spinner…but wht abt small state like manipur…where people live with no little hope…lets strive to do something for really needy people


  7. Gul Panag

    Dear Niranjan, Darpan
    Thanks for your comments. Long ones too:-)

    I just got back from HongKong and was amazed by the city!
    I think civic responsibility is the starting point. We need to take a leaf out of our civic text books .
    We can’t constantly blame the system.We are the system.


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