"Maharashtra crime rate has increased in the last 10 years. Examine from where the people perpetrating the crimes come from. We have blamed police and intelligence enough in all these years, now it is time to check on the migrants." - Raj Thackeray.
The above statement has been categorised as one of the most stupid ones coming out after the latest Mumbai terror attack. Many people have reacted to the statement with condemnation. The Shiv Sena and the MNS are known for their historically anti-migrant stand, especially in recent times this being against migrants from Bihar and UP. The Shivsena, in fact, was born as an anti-migrant movement (then against South Indians). Therefore, for that reason such a statement from Raj Thackeray is viewed politically. Had it come from someone else and had the term used been ‘illegal migrants’ it would not have caused so much offence.
In an unrelated topic, on the night of the recent blasts on NDTV’s Left, Right and Centre someone called Jerry Pinto (I think it was him) lashed out at Nidhi Razdan. His rant was excessive but the point he was making was that each time these attacks happen, Mumbai is usually being discussed by people sitting in Delhi or other places. He had a valid point which he delivered a bit too harshly. Also, on TV you usually find panellists, even from Mumbai, who usually do not face the brunt of these incidents. Unless you wish to refer to the attacks on five star hotels. The attack on Zaveri Bazar wasn’t just on the diamond market. The diamond business is largely populated with Gujaratis. There hangs a tale.
Most of us would have been in Mumbai at some point or the other for some reason. I can make the safe assumption that the ones who criticise and rant against the ‘migrant’ theory the most are the ones who have never been in Mumbai or have very limited knowledge about the place. I was born in Mumbai. I have lived there. I have worked there and I still spend a good deal of time in Mumbai. My mother’s home is a few hundred yards away from Kabutar Khana at Dadar where one of the serial blasts happened. Let’s examine some facts about Mumbai:
India Today: “ (Mumbai) A 468 sq-km linear city, it is less than a third the size of Delhi's 1,483 sq km. But it is the country's most densely packed metropolis. It has 29,042 people per sq km to Delhi's 9,294 people per sq km, making policing difficult for its 60,000-strong force. Its local trains carry 69 lakh passengers every day….. The buses in Mumbai carry 45 lakh passengers every day….Its coastline is open to attack, as 26/11 proved. Its water pipelines are susceptible to sabotage. The pipelines are surrounded by around 35,000 shanties and shockingly, the BMC does not have a record of people staying there. Security experts have often warned that anti-social elements can break the water pipelines and contaminate the water. The Bombay High Court in 2009 had rapped the BMC for compromising citizens' health by allowing slums around water pipes…… The BMC started a demolition drive after that but could not clear the slums completely. Former IPS officer Y.P. Singh says, "Mumbai is the perfect advertisement for any terrorist organisation that wants to make an impact. Seasonal downpours, which come in the way of effective policing, present the best opportunity."
Mumbai population explosion (Source: India Online) : 29 lakhs (1901), 12.5 Million (1991), 18 Million (2006) and 21 Million (2011)
(Rediff): In terms of illegal immigrants in Mumbai, Bangladeshis alone account for between 3.5 lakhs according to a minister and 16.0 lakhs according to Kirit Somaya, a former MP. What would you say about a government that can’t even get its numbers right on such matters? This is in no way to suggest that any of this population is involved in crimes but the possibilities that some may be cannot be discounted. But it sure is a matter of serious concern.
The migrant issue should be viewed not in the light of politics or vote-banks but in the light of the fact that the city of Mumbai simply cannot absorb any more population explosion. It might also be worth understanding that except for some parts of South Mumbai and some parts of the Western suburbs, most parts of Mumbai have simply become un-liveable. It is not long before the whole city is turned into a shanty.
If you happen to work in Mumbai and have to get to the railway station and catch a train you would have to navigate your way through enormous crowds right through your path to the station. Much of these crowds surrounding most of the suburban stations are either unemployed or daily wagers. And mostly migrants. And yes, currently most of them are from Bihar and UP. Both sides of many suburban stations are practically informal ‘employment exchanges’. The crowds at the station and on the trains are equally daunting. You need to have eyes in your feet. Add to this the fact that much of Mumbai’s infrastructure is already creaking. The less said about the traffic and roads the better.
A large number of the people migrating into Mumbai every day are not ones who have proper jobs or residences before they land there. They are poor migrants seeking a livelihood to escape the poverty and strife back home. They usually end up with relatives in slums or shanties or on the pavements. In it’s current state Mumbai simply cannot absorb more people without proper jobs or residences. It does not have water or sanitation resources to cater to even the existing population in proper residences.
When was the last time you heard the central government or any state government talk about population? Have you seen any population control campaigns in the last few years? The 1.2 billion talk sounds like something to be very proud about but fact is as the population grows uncontrolled it also increases the absolute number of people below poverty line or lower middle class in far higher proportion than the ones who are becoming wealthy. The government of the day doesn’t really mind! The population increase is clearly largely in its own vote-banks.
Apart from being the financial hub of the nation Mumbai is also geographically strategically located. There are pockets in South Mumbai with the mafia, places like Mumbra and other places like Nalasopara, Vasai etc. which have the potential to become criminal hubs. All of these suburbs have many illegal constructions, slums and shanties.
Mumbai cannot be managed the way it’s been done for the last two decades. Change is desirable and dramatic change is required. Mumbai needs to be a separate state.
1. Migration must be controlled. I am not talking about migration from North, East or South but migrants without proper place to live in must be curbed.
2. Remove all illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan or any other country on a war footing.
3. Illegal slums and newer slums be cleared and those jobless in these illegal slums must be sent back if they do not have alternative residences.
4. All illegal pavement kiosks, businesses and squatters must be removed. Rehabilitate them while curbing newer migration. If the CM wants to de-congest, start with illegal encroachments.
5. Despite the Slum Rehabilitation Authority’s (SRA) work to rehabilitate slum-dwellers many of them are unwilling to move. Pack them up if they don’t move and send them back.
In 2010 Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Games. In the course of beautifying the city for its foreign guests Delhi cleaned up the city. Many slums, pavement dwellers, shanties, pavement eateries and shops and many illegal constructions disappeared. Where did they go? What do you think happened? If that was possible in Delhi it is possible in Mumbai. Why should we wait for some international event to clean up our metros and clear illegal dwellings?
Following the recent terror attacks many media persons and many commentators asked one of the most thoughtless questions: “If Mumbaikars are not happy with their government’s efforts on security why don’t they throw them out? Why did the South Mumbai voters go on a holiday during election-day? They all had the chance in 2009, didn’t they?”
The answer to that stupid question is simple – Mumbaikars really count only marginally when it comes to formation of the Maharashtra government. Remember, it’s the Maharashtra govt. not the Mumbai govt. There are 288 assembly seats in the state of which only 26 are in Greater Mumbai. That is less than 10%. So what logic tells these pundits that 10% gets to decide what 90% votes for? Naturally, Maharashtra governments rely heavily on the votes from the rest of Maharashtra and not so heavily on Mumbai. This is not to suggest that South Mumbai residents can afford not to vote. It is natural that most of the ministers in the Maharashtra cabinet are unlikely to be from Mumbai. So how do you really get the focus on Mumbai and how do Mumbaikars really get to decide what government they want? Right now they cannot!
When it comes to Mumbai alone it is not the Congress but the Shiv Sena that is in charge of the Municipal Corporation. The current mayor is also a Shiv Sena member. But Mumbai security is not under the BMC. Therein lies a small story of how Mumbaikars would vote if they really wanted a different government. This is not a story the media will tell you or the pundits would even want to talk about.This is also not about Congress, BJP or Shivsena.
P.R. Chavan the CM is now on record saying “Mumbai is not equipped to tackle terror…”. He appears to a sensible and reasonable man. But seriously, with all the problems of Mumbai that he faces do you really think he will do justice to the rest of Maharashtra or vice versa? Isn’t that one reason why we turned Delhi into a state? We did turn other places like Puducherry or Goa into states for administrative efficiency. We carved out Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttarakhand. It is an irony of coalition compulsions I suppose that the same guy, R.R.Patil, who had to quit as Home minister after the 2008 attacks was the Home minister during these attacks too. If it were a Mumbai State Assembly I doubt R.R.Patil would even be in that assembly. There is no way Mumbaikars would vote for that man.
If you take any commercial or corporate organisation they would have divided Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra (ROM) into to two distinct territories for their operations. Most telecom companies treat Greater Mumbai as a separate circle from Maharashtra. It all makes sense.
The creation of Mumbai as a separate state needs to be done without the emotion and sentiments attached like with Telengana. The population of Mumbai is larger than half the population of some states in India. It is larger than some countries in the world. The first step to a higher level of security is manageable territories, infrastructure and population with a greater focus by its government. Mumbai needs to be a separate state.
Note: I have made the best attempt to quote accurate numbers and statistics. Even if they aren't exactly 100% accurate they are meant to serve the context of this discussion as this is not an exercise in statistics.