What’s on your wishlist for Mumbai in 2017?
THE RETURN OF CASH
Remember the good old days, when the biggest note in your wallet was a Rs 1,000 and you could just hop into the nearest ATM on a whim? Of course you do; it was less than two months ago.
Let’s be honest — we don’t really know whether this is some masterstroke or just a shot in the dark. We don’t know if generations to come will look back and marvel at November 8 as the point at which India was transformed forever.
But we know a couple of things: we know it’s tiring to see your government just make things up as it goes along. How much you can withdraw, how you can withdraw it, what you could do with the old notes and what you couldn’t.
We know you don’t plan a new year’s eve bash with that little forethought. You figure out how much food you’re going to need and you make sure the big muscly guy doesn’t corner it all. You don’t suddenly go around telling guests they can only get one shot glass of water an hour.
You don’t ask your friends to line up for a quarter of a sandwich, and then tell them there’ll be no seconds till… well, you’re entirely sure about when (but hey, vote for me in Jan!).
You don’t do that. Because jokes aside, some people have hospital bills to pay and school fees, weddings to plan, or funerals. And some are just tired of worrying about how to pay for the autorickshaw to work.
The cash should have been flowing by now. Life should have been back to normal. Or what passes for normal in Mumbai. They said so themselves. Now, we want to see cash make a comeback. (No offense, e-wallet guys, but we want the power to choose).
A NEW AND IMPROVED BMC
It seems clear now that there are either going to be tie-ups of the most unusual kind, or none at all, in the municipal elections scheduled for January. This could mean more choices for the voter, if the Cong, NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena all contest independently of each other. In an environment of anger against corruption and attempts at crackdowns, it could also be hoped that turnout will be better. Mumbai typically treats elections like they’re someone else’s do. You take the chance to skip town, enjoy a long weekend, return when all the hubbub has died down — and then wonder why nothing’s working and no one takes your complaints seriously. Well, there’s a first time for everything and here’s hoping this is the first time Mumbai trends for a great (or better?) voter turnout, a fresh start, the glimmers of accountability on both sides, and finally guardians of the city who will give a damn.
A 24x7 CITY, A REAL NIGHTLIFE FOR MUMBAI
Mumbai’s tag of “the city that never sleeps” has never been questioned. And it is that rare Indian city where you can be out at odd hours, find public transport at 4 am, and where someone or the other is going to work or returning home no matter what the time of day or night.
But party animals from the early 2000s will tell you about a time from before the 1.30 am deadline, when you could dance the night away and call it a day as dawn broke, if you chose.
Over the past few years, proposals in favour of 24x7 nightlife have come from unlikely quarters: the youth wing of the Shiv Sena, whose notorious crackdown on pubs is the Ghost of Mumbai Past.
Ahead of the municipal election, talk of a 24x7 city and dedicated nightlife zones is back. To counter the Shiv Sena’s promises, the BJP is floating the idea of dedicated night markets.
There truly are cities around the world that don’t sleep. New York’s Meat Packing District comes alive at night. Las Vegas is glitzier in the dark. Add London, Barcelona, Istanbul, Berlin. Mumbai’s the only Indian city likely to get there. But it’ll need to be more than campaign rhetoric.
POLITICS BACK ON CAMPUS, IN A GOOD WAY
More than 20 years after they were banned, student elections are set to return to Maharashtra. The elections were scrapped in the early 1990s following periodic outbreaks of violence, sometimes going as far as kidnap. Now, the elections to student unions are set to return, amid strict norms and codes of conduct. While the last thing we need is more unruly youngsters on the streets, here’s hoping that 2016 will be the year kids get into politics, in a good way. Start caring, start voting, become part of the solution instead of standing on the sidelines assuming they know better but never rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.
AC COMFORT ON LOCAL TRAINS
Your city will finally get an AC train this year, although it’s still unclear what line the rake will run on. The first train of this kind has been built at a cost of Rs 54 crore, but from the time it arrived at the Kurla carshed in April, there’s been a fair bit of confusion about what to do with it.
Since it’s taller than the average local train, there are concerns that it might get stuck beneath the old, low-lying bridges on the Central line. So it is now being proposed to run it on the Western line. There were technical glitches plaguing the train as well, including a failure in regulation of internal temperature and issues in procuring an inductor.
All in all, it’s been a long wait, but all will be forgiven when we finally step on that train and feel the gust of cool, dry air in hot, humid Mumbai. Happy commuting to you!
MONORAIL, TAKE TWO
Every government that comes to power in Mumbai talks about a shiny, hyper-connected city. The Mumbai Monorail, the first of its kind in India, was supposed to be a symbol of that very future. Instead, two years after its launch, the Chembur-Wadala link remains little more than a multi-crore joyride for local kids.
Having claimed it would ferry 1.5 lakh commuters a day, it manages to serve about 15,000 only, and is estimated to be losing a few lakh rupees daily. The MMRDA hopes all that will change with the second phase, from Wadala to Jacob Circle, which will be thrown open this year. On paper, at least, the route sounds useful.
If by the middle of next year, we’re jostling for space inside those sci-fi, neon-coloured capsules, it will buck the global trend of failed monorails. Otherwise, it’s a few thousand crores more of taxpayer money down the drain. Nothing we’re not used to.
FREE WI-FI IN A LOT MORE PUBLIC SPACES
Through 2016, we kept hearing the terms ‘smart city’ and ‘digital India’. If chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is to be believed, we will see efforts made to achieve both, as early as mid-2017.
In July, Mumbai Central became the first railway station in India to get free wi-fi. It was followed by 14 other stations across the Western, Central and Harbour lines. The promise, though, is of as many as 1,200 free wi-fi hotspots all over the city by May.
Sounds win-win, doesn’t it? What could possibly be wrong with free high-speed internet?
Even if we can take measures against misuse (think Patna station, and the alleged porn downloads), public wi-fi around the world is seen with suspicion because of higher security risks. The current railway station internet speeds start out at 10mbps, but drop after the first half hour. Once more people start logging on, it might drop further.
That said, if all goes as per the government’s futuristic plan, the wi-fi will also give you access to real-time data on public transport, including available parking slots and tracking of BEST buses like you track your Uber rides.
A SMARTCARD FOR TRANSPORT THAT LETS YOU HOP ON TO BUSES, TRAINS
“Soon,” we’ve been reporting. “Eventually,” the authorities have been promising. But 2017 is the year we may be able to say “Finally”. After all, it’s not rocket science. Mumbai has waited too long for an integrated ticketing system, a single smartcard for public transport much like London’s Oyster, Dubai’s Nol and Tokyo’s Suica. It beats having to queue at the station, fish for change in the bus and buy separate tickets for the BEST, WR, CR, Metro and monorail. In November, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis promised a single-ticketing system within six months, under the Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. Dare we hope that Mumbai will finally become a smart city in at least one way?
A MUSEUM DEDICATED TO INDIAN CINEMA
It’s a project 100 years in the making, and 2017 looks set to be the year it all comes together. Progress on the National Museum on Indian Cinema, India’s first effort to tell the history of its movies, was reviewed by the I&B ministry this year and is scheduled to open in 2017. When that happens, visitors will be in for a treat. At the Films Division premises on Peddar Road will be five levels of displays showcasing Indian cinema from its earliest days to today. Expect artefacts, rare recordings, sections devoted to regional films, the filmmaking process, documentary films and the social impact of the movies, in addition to two auditoriums. More than a century after the first Indian film, India will finally have a Dress Circle view of how it all unfolded.
A NEW GENERATION OF STAR KIDS
It’s been nine years since the last big batch made their debuts (Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor, in 2007). This year is set to see another bunch enter tinseltown. Ahan Shetty, son of Suniel Shetty, will make his debut in a Sajid Nadiadwala production slated to go on the floors in 2017 and be released in 2018. And Aadar Jain, grandson of the late Raj Kapoor, will be seen in a Yashraj Films production, to be directed by Habib Faisal. Other star kids rumoured to be making their debut in the coming months include Jhanvi Kapoor (daughter of Sridevi and filmmaker Boney Kapoor) in a Karan Johar-backed project, Ishaan Khattar (Rajesh Khattar and Neelima Azim’s son and Shahid Kapoor’s brother) in a Johar-helmed project, and Sara Ali Khan (daughter of Saif and Amrita Singh), though there is no confirmation about the project she will debut in. Well, good luck to them all.