Unable to resist being engaged in the eighth anniversary of Hindustan Times’ existence in Mumbai, here is my list of eight things that can make this city become world-class.
Creating affordable housing, but not by rampant and illegal construction which has been Mumbai’s bane, should be top priority. Transparent de-reservation of land and judicious deployment of floor space index (FSI) can reduce pressure on housing. This will allow credible and non-corrupt builders to survive. Perhaps public-private partnerships in construction can be forged to keep costs further in check.
Primary education for everyone
Knowledge and awareness are wealth of a different kind, and as several metropolises across the world have established, of greater value than only disposable income. So much is done in ignorance at great cost to self, family, society and city. True, primary education from the municipal corpus is free, but it should also be made compulsory. The money earmarked for this is pointless if unused or misused.
Potholes and holes in the pocket
Potholed roads are an eyesore, a shame and, well, a hole in the pocket for all of us since we pay for their upkeep. These are symptomatic of callous disregard for public welfare and money by civic authorities. Infra projects are never completed in time or reflect shoddy work (read: corruption). Can we have a time-frame of completion of projects from the municipal corporation please? And a guarantee period for which they will last?
It takes an hour to travel from say Mahim to Colaba; and that is on a good day. Cutting intra-city travel time is the biggest challenge confronting town planners — with or without the Peddar Road flyover! Rapid Mass Transport Systems must get top priority clearly. Decreasing vehicle density in SoBo through entry fees during peak hours is another. Most importantly, sea transport needs to be given the go-ahead as soon as possible.
Water as metaphor
It’s a shame that so little use is made of Mumbai’s extensive and beautiful coastline — and not just for transport alone. People hardly get very little opportunity to enjoy the benefit of living so close to the sea except in a few places dotting SoBo and the suburbs. The near 50-km coastline (east and west) offers enormous scope for beautification, recreation, cultural activities: generally improving the aesthetics of the city. Indeed, water should be a metaphor for Mumbai.
Police commissioner for a longer time, please
The appointment of police commissioner and some senior officers is now part of political power-play. But while it may be near impossible to break the stranglehold of politicians in this matter, a longer tenure of the PC must be demanded. A period of eight-12 months is hardly enough for setting an agenda in motion. A three-year term would mean the incumbent sees his/her appointment as incentive for crowning glory rather than a whimpering fade-out.
Health is Wealth
Mumbai’s health index is terribly low. State/municipal hospitals are not quite the problem they are made out to be considering the pressures they are under. The bigger issue is basic civic hygiene. Water supply is through dismally outdated pipelines that promote, not prevent, disease. Sanitation is the other issue, ignorance compounded by utter lack of facilities for the economically under-privileged. These are not insurmountable problems but the chalta hai mindset — among officials and public — must change.
We The People
Finally, it is up to us — the people — to make this city a gateway to livelihood as well as culturally vibrant, wonderfully liveable. We must know and demand our rights for sure, but equally important is to understand Mumbai’s heritage, it’s syncretic, essentially non-parochial ethos. We can’t live here without caring for it.