Two of the three bomb explosions on July 13 took place in two busy, congested business areas of Mumbai - Zaveri Bazar and Opera House. Both areas are in the old part of the island city Mumbai where congested localities make it difficult to keep a tight vigil on visitors.
Most wholesale markets, such as the textile market or specialised markets like the diamond hub are located in congested areas of south Mumbai for several decades. Except some areas like Nariman Point, other commercial hubs in south Mumbai, too are crowded.
The terror attack has once again brought focus on something that the government planned two decades ago, but could not manage to implement fully - decongesting business hubs in the island city.
Over two decades ago, the state government planned to shift wholesale markets to the satellite city of Navi Mumbai. It also planned to create new commercial hubs in Navi Mumbai as well as at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC). It did not meet with much success in case of wholesale markets. A market relocation policy, drafted in 1984 to decongest the city, saw the movement of congested markets like the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) and the iron and steel market to Navi Mumbai.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) had proposed to relocate the textiles market from south Mumbai and Dadar to BKC. However, this plan failed to take off due to poor planning on part of the MMRDA, which kept increasing the sale price in spite of signing an agreement with the traders.
"Security will be much better if certain congested business areas are decongested by the government by giving alternatives to businessmen," said Narinder Nayar of Bombay First - the state government's think-tank on Mumbai makeover, which has representatives from corporates. "However, the government should realise that people there are conducting their business for decades. They would not shift to suburbs or to the neighbouring city unless they are offered proper infrastructure and incentives. The government needs to have a dialogue with them," he said. The state government, on its part, claims it understands the problem.
"There are practical difficulties in shifting these markets out of the island city. What we can do right now is increase vigilance in the area," said Mumbai city's guardian minister Jayant Patil.
MMRDA also has plans of setting up business districts across the Mumbai metropolitan region. As per these plans, it has decided to develop a minimum of three business development districts at Kanjurmarg (621 hectares), Dewanman in Vasai (246 hectares) and in Nevale in Kalyan (677 hectares). The MMRDA wants to go all out to develop these areas to attract potential land buyers.
Even though the plan seems to be good on paper, execution may not easy. Till date, the MMRDA has not done anything to improve infrastructure in those regions to encourage people to shift. The state government insists that these are long-term projects, which will show results in the future. "These are long term projects which will be materialise when traditional business districts in Mumbai get saturated," said state Chief Secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad.