Good 2017 for Mumbai but some lessons for 2018 too
There were some problem areas, given below, that should be looked at closely to make 2018 bettermumbai Updated: Dec 29, 2017 00:03 IST
A surprisingly pleasant aspect I discovered while writing this year-ender was that Mumbai actually survived 2017 rather well compared to other cities.
Yes, there was the annual monsoon flooding and ubiquitous potholes, and the two parties running the state and city (through the BMC) were rattling their sabres at each other through the year.
However, there was none of the social tensions raised by bigotry and hatred that affected several parts of the country, including major metros like Delhi and Bangalore. This was a huge relief.
For that, the state administration, political parties, law and order machinery and the people of Mumbai must pat themselves on the back.
But there were some problem areas, given below, that should be looked at closely to make 2018 better.
How infrastructure at most local stations – in the city and suburbs — has been neglected for many years was brought to the fore devastatingly with the stampede at Elphinstone Road station.
The problem essentially is lack of foresight and bureaucratic obfuscation. In the past 20 years, several areas in south and central Mumbai have become massive work, residential and entertainment centres, but railway stations feeding them have remained the same.
The price paid has been heavy and could so easily have been avoided. The optics of the Army being called in to repair and rebuild may serve a narrow political end. But what’s really needed is a thorough understanding of the infra that is lacking, and the gap filled swiftly.
The threat to environment – perceived or real – is something that needs attention. The proposed Metro Railway shed at Aarey Milk Colony got many of Mumbai’s citizens activated.
Yes, a vast network of metro rail is needed to serve the city, but also green lungs need to be saved. A win-win situation is not impossible if battling factions sit across the table and find common ground.
The beaches of Mumbai are another story altogether, highlighting civic irresponsibility, sadly aided and abetted by ignorant and uncaring citizens. Committed citizens action groups, like the one led by Afroz Shah in cleaning Versova beach, have provided some salvation. But with such a massive coastline, by itself this is not enough.
The rubbish that the sea throws back at us is the rubbish that we throw into it, one way or another. This is a lesson about what awaits us if we don’t wake up.
The University of Mumbai declared itself ‘failed’ by delaying inordinately the assessment of exam papers and announcing results, leaving the student community traumatised.
The online process attempted bombed so badly that all assessments are still to be completed, which shows the level of incompetence at work. Inevitably the vice-chancellor lost his job.
But the bigger blow was to the image of the university, once rated amongst the best in the country, and now languishing in the doldrums.
Mumbai came a cropper in the Ranji Trophy. So much was expected from the team, particularly after the fanfare over the epochal 500th Ranji match which heralded the start of the season.
True, some stalwarts (Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane) and some talented youngsters (Shreyas Iyer, Shardul Thakur) were away on national duty intermittently. But only one outright win, over lowly Odisha, puts Mumbai’s poor season in perspective.
Truth is that Mumbai does not enjoy the suzerainty over other teams it did in the past. The rest of India has caught up. Good facilities are available everywhere today, and clearly players from smaller cities are hungrier for success.
Mumbai’s cricketing legacy is remarkable, and there are plenty of academies run by people of repute. But clearly some deep diving to unearth and then nurture good talent is imperative if there has to be salvation.
A forgettable year — and not only because most flicks failed to hit the bullseye. The inability of film stars to speak out against injustice, even against their own, showed unfortunate shallowness and cowardice.
Whether tackling threats to stars like Deepika Padukone or directors like Sanjay Leela Bhansali or the issue of sexual harassment (that turned Hollywood on its head), Bollywood did not cover itself with glory.
Perhaps one can understand film folk being scared for their futures and careers if they speak up. But what of the film certification board succumbing to every fringe political pressure group?
The exit of a political stooge as censor board chief did not seem to help matters. As a hit song by the rock band The Who goes, “meet the new boss, same like the old boss.’’
How unedifying is that?