Water. Power. Corrupt netas. Missing mangroves
Two weeks ago, Hindustan Times launched a campaign that invited you to write in and tell us what your greatest concerns were about your city. The response has been overwhelming. With hundreds of letters pouring in, we take a look at the issues worrying you the most — and how you think they should be addressed.mumbai Updated: Apr 12, 2010 00:50 IST
We need to care more, vote more carefully
A very commendable initiative, this. But as far as Mumbai is concerned, the problems are huge. Not insurmountable, but recurring. And recurring because we have allowed the system to degrade over the years.
Democracy is about checks and balances, but where are the checks in our system? Babus and netas are plundering at will and, of all the losses they cause, the most pernicious is the loss of our value system, which is causing this train of recurring problems.
Over the last few decades, India has produced a large number of billionaires, sent a spacecraft to the moon, found a place among the world’s foremost economic powers and nurtured a massive middle class. Yet so much of our population continues to lead a subhuman existence.
All this is due to weak citizenry, which has allowed the avaricious and unscrupulous to take advantage of us. Corruption can only percolate downwards, so the crucial need — for Mumbai, and for India — is to check the netas.
Let’s form committees to protect our water
At the outset, let me thank you for launching such an action-oriented, interactive series to improve Mumbai.
To begin with, our crumbling pipelines and wasted water seem to be our most urgent problem. I think the BMC should appoint citizens’ vigilance committees along the lines of the mohalla or area committees that have worked very effectively towards maintaining communal harmony.
These committee members should be given ID cards and the authority to track water theft in their areas. All illegal taps and other outlets should be reported to the local ward office.
As water is the basic and foremost necessity, I am sure a number of people would come forward to assist the BMC in such a venture.
Enforce daylight saving time for billboards
Every summer, demand for power peaks and the government starts scrambling to make up the difference — when the solution is staring us right in the face. The government must make it compulsory for all outdoor hoardings — advertisements, neon signs and billboards — to be lit an hour later and switched off an hour earlier than usual. It’s such a simple solution. All that is required is the will to ‘just do it’!
Kids should plant a tree, get marks if it survives
There are two things Mumbai really needs in order for it to become a more sustainable ecosystem. One is greater awareness about eco conservation; the other is a fresh crop of clean politicians.
On the eco-conservation front, we need to introduce schemes like a compulsory 10-mark annual project where every school student is told to plant a tree — maybe in one of the lower classes — and then nurture it through the rest of his time in the school.
Not only would this help improve the dismal people-to-tree ratio in our city, it would also ensure that every young person looked at trees very differently for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, to clear the rot in our political system, we need a minimum retirement age for politicians. This way, we can at least begin to weed out the jaded, tainted and corrupt and replace them with fresh youngsters looking to make a difference.
This might also help improve our voter turnout — I think a lot more people would come out and vote if there were some clean, fresh faces to vote for.
Of course, to attract the fresh young faces, we would need to hike our government salaries manifold. If the government starts calling on brilliant students from IITs and IIMs at salaries that are at par with corporate India, I am sure they will be glad to serve their nation. And this remuneration would still cost the nation far far less than our corrupt ministers are currently stuffing into their pockets unchecked.
We need to crack down on spitting — ourselves
My first and biggest concern about Mumbai is all the spitting.
Spitting is one of the major causes of the spread of TB and several viral diseases, including swine flu. Why do people spit? I cannot fathom it.
Even the educated, even the wealthy seem to have no awareness of the adverse effects of spitting in public places.
People who chew gutkha, paan and tobacco are the mostly habitual spitters, forming a sort of clique of in-house resources who paint all our walls at no cost — and no pleasure to us. For them, I have a question: Why do they insist on chewing things that they cannot swallow?
The worst of it all is being in a bus or on a bike and having someone spit out of a car or bus window. We have rules and penalties, and yet this disgusting habit continues.
We need to develop a zero-tolerance policy — among ourselves and within the municipal corporation.
We are accountable for the people we elect
The two biggest challenges facing our city, in my opinion, are votebank politics and snail’s pace infrastructure development.
First, the politics. Too many regional politicians are spending too much time and causing too much chaos over inane issues like the language used in recorded messages beamed by telecom companies, or the use of the word Bombay instead of Mumbai in films and names of organisations. These politicians have even targeted Mumbai icons like Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan and Mukesh Ambani, who have made the country so proud with their achievements.
Such votebank politics is not good for the city, mainly because the sole objective of these politicians is to promote themselves and grab media attention.
The solution: We need to start taking responsibility for the governments and representatives we elect. We need to start participating in the elections so that hooligans don’t win so many seats in our legislature.
We need to vote so Maharashtra — and Mumbai — can have representatives who care about development. This would help with our second big problem: Infrastructure development. This city needs faster infrastructure development. We need to stop taking delays for granted.
We live in the financial capital of India, and yet building a skywalk here takes longer than other third-world countries take to build sweeping flyovers. This delay is not just hampering our city's growth, it is costing us money — and funding, as global financiers pull out, frustrated.
We can’t afford these delays. We are a state deep in debt. We need to start using out money more wisely.