Poonam Mahajan explains why Mumbai is at the very heart of India story
Similarly, today also happens to be a different type of landmark for our Modi govt. It has been exactly two months since the govt headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge. I find it crucial to look back at all such instances, reflect on our performance and learn from shortcomings.
Thankfully, there is a lot to be proud of about the new govt. Starting with policy measures, cabinet decisions, through to the presentation of the Rail and Union Budget, the govt has done justice to the resounding mandate it got.
However, there were shortcomings: Mumbai has not yet been given the attention it deserves. As a first time parliamentarian representing Mumbai North-Central constituency, I had the honor of voicing my opinion about my city. In my speech I spelled out my vision for the development of Mumbai and urged the finance minster to act on them. Apart from this, I have also been actively writing to various ministers, requesting them to forward various projects that will help Mumbai grow in a sustainable manner.
I believe Mumbai is now at a critical juncture. In order to become a vibrant international metropolis we need to ensure that our city’s economic growth is comparable to world-class levels. But anyone who has spent even a day in the city will know that growth alone is not enough. It needs to be coupled with upgrading the quality of life. Keeping this in mind, I feel Mumbai requires the three Is—Initiative, Innovation and Investment—to spearhead the next decade of development—Initiative in governance, Innovation in problem-solving and Investment to enable growth.
The most important component in my vision for Mumbai is tackling environmental issues the city faces. Rising air pollution, destruction of Mithi River and dwindling mangrove forests are the most pressing environmental issues that Mumbai faces. I have written to the minister of environment, forests and climate-change pointing out that better coordination between the authorities concerned is required for rejuvenation of the Mithi Nadi. Once a beautiful landmark of the city, Mithi has now become an eyesore and a perennial (flooding) threat; we need to reclaim Mithi. Similarly, I recently raised a question in Parliament on the mangroves of Mumbai.
The younger generation of Mumbaikars are not even aware of the existence of mangrove forests in Mumbai. This is how badly we have damaged them. I will continue to push for initiatives to revive, protect and preserve mangroves.
The two major issues that have continued to plague Mumbai’s progress are that of haphazard infrastructural growth and lack of an efficient affordable-housing plan. While infrastructure is the backbone of growth, I feel we need to ensure that projects that are feasible are sanctioned and completed in a time-bound, cost-effective manner.
Special focus should be laid on transport infrastructure. This includes revamping our suburban rail lifeline and ensuring better local stations. After all, as the Mayor of Bagota famously remarked: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.” With the revamping of our public transport, let us aim at building a city that is developed in the true sense of the term.
Mumbai needs a ring road—a network that comprises a combination of coastal roads, sea links, surface roads and trans-harbor link. The ring road would essentially be composed of the Western Freeway (Nariman Point to Versova), Eastern Freeway (PD’Mello Road to Ghatkopar), Mumbai Trans Harbor Link and Virar-Alibag corridor.
The Union transport minister has been extremely encouraging on this issue. I have written to him to ensure speedy implementation of the ring road and also urged him to give it the status of a National Highway.
Affordable housing requires unique attention, especially in redevelopment of Mumbai’s slums. In this context, I welcome the finance minister’s move to include slum development in the list of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.
Apart from this we need to pay attention to the dilapidated buildings in Mumbai. The recent CRZ rules and regulations should be amended to suit Mumbai’s needs. Our city needs to grow vertically to accommodate the growing population. This can be done by increasing our average FSI level from 3 to 12, ie., to levels prevalent in international hubs such as New York and Hong Kong.
There are glaring issues the city faces with respect to health and sanitation. We need to tackle them by creating adequate public health facilities and innovative sanitation projects.
There is also a desperate need to promote safety of women.
While funds available for education per student in Mumbai are sufficiently large and the average percentage of students passing SSC from private schools is 82%, the average of students passing from municipal schools is a mere 58 % (between 2008 to 2012). There is a need for more training in skill development, educating adults and maintaining standard of school education.
Our city also faces unique challenges in managing solid waste and traffic, as well as disaster management. And pertaining to solid waste management, I envision the next generation reforms focusing on lifestyle changes among Mumbaikars.
While I wholeheartedly support the smart cities initiative, the original big city, Mumbai, also needs adequate attention. In fact, I envision the smart cities around Mumbai providing it a support ecosystem for growth.
We must remember that Mumbai’s contribution to India is immense. We contribute 1/3rd of the total tax revenue, 25% of industrial output and 70% capital transactions to India’s economy. It’s not just the statistics but also the overarching Mumbai spirit that goes to show the potential of the city. Mumbai has experienced every thing from bomb blasts to monsoon flooding, yet it has always been back on its feet and back to work.
Mumbai has had its spirit shaken, but not crushed. It has always continued to grow and continued to contribute to the country at large. If our city can do so much even when it gets no special attention, I can only imagine how much we can contribute when we have the attention we deserve from the Union government. I reiterate, if India has to grow, Mumbai needs to grow. And with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm of affairs, I am confident Mumbai would indeed grow.