Saturday, July 16, 2011

Make Mumbai A Separate State

"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.


  1. frankly i dont agree. if this continues, woudl we be creating state to count of 500 + when we got indpendence? the right thing to do is create a ministry for homeland.. ofcourse..not with congress ruling... and his ministry should have access and jurisdicaiton in all states....

    to be truthfull.. i am against centralized powerful istitutuion under direct government. but we hve no opiton but to walk the footsteps of america and introduce bills like

    1. Albeit late, I will say that there is sense in what is said here. China has been able to develop its cities by governing them as separate managed units. US and UK too have followed this path for long years.

      The change must be on logical grounds. Perhaps all cities with above 50 - 75 lakh.

      One cannot deny that challenges of running a mega city is vastly different from running a state. Speedier decision taking and direct accountability is also vital. Think of it - When Mumbai had the 26/11 terror attack, we had the CM talking to media. Where as in New York in 9/11 it was the Mayor Rudy Guilliani all the way.

      Dispassionately, the suggestion makes a lot of sense

  2. @ Tamoghna

    I agree we need a Homeland Security ministry like the US. But there is simply no way a Maha govt. can handle Mumbai anymore. The US with 300M popn. has 50 states. India still has around 28. I wouldnt know when you were last in Mumbai.

    Where Mumbai is concerned it has become absolutely chaotic and quite pathetic in terms of infrastructure. Unlike other metros in India Mumbai is directly in the firing line of a dangerous neighbour and we have already experienced infiltration thru the seas in Nov 2008. Unless political considerations are put aside true security can come to Mumbai only by separating it and having a dedicated govt. for it. This may sound a far-fetched demand but there is no other way anyone can really change the security status of Mumbai.

  3. "The US with 300M popn. has 50 states. India still has around 28."
    The above is the quoted text of the author in a reply. I disagree with it. The number populated is not the question. For that matter the change in constitution we have far exceeded the US. Has a single one bear the fruit?

    The police should be free from the corrupt politicians buckle and accountable. The police officers are enjoying a picnic at the cost of tax money without accountability. If a tough police officer comes the proof of his toughness is jailing both irresponsible DS and Raul in the first place.Else give me the uniform ans see the music. No one including the PM and super PM commented about the plight of the families who have lost their bread winner at this time of soaring prices by this barbarian, inhuman act of the imbecile birth.
    We have no governance but retinue of ministers to buttress the idiocracy of the PM in waiting and sharing / safeguarding the loot of the women at the helm of the affairs.

  4. @Tamogha:

    There is nothing wrong in having even 500 states so long as the state and its con-men (politicians) do not feast on tax-payers money, in terms of wages and perks. Decentralization is good for governance. Like Ravinar has pointed out, in terms of population ratios (with US) we could go for even 200 states!


    We do need administrative and governmental reforms. But please also notice that the main cause for failure has been that those higher-ups know and believe that they can fail repeatedly and get away with it. Administrative and governmental reforms may not change that attitude.

    @Tamogha and Ravinar:

    Just to stretch an analogy, what do we do if a Thief is the Inspector General of Police? Will better infrastructure, more policemen, any such measure work, even though that may also be absolutely necessary?

    We need to throw these crooks out! All the best to you in your drive to throw the crooks in the media out!

  5. Hi all, Let me lol. Nothing happens. The job of wiping out the wrong has to be done by Indians and not by an out sider. When 99% of Indians are lickers with benevolent leaders like Pawar, PC, Gutter mouths, Prince of Italy, Buffalows of UP, Sainiks of Maharashtra, Jokers of the like of MM Joshi, danseuse, Opium mixers and others along with MKs and Jayas who have boot lickers like Cho and Ram to line up, how can one Vaidya in uniform turn around the country with cherished music in the background?. Indians will have to undergo radical changes in character,though and action besides caring to look themselves at the mirror to see the croweded and ugly pimples in their faces.

    I see no chance of resurgence for Indians. They are ever destined for a demeaning life although I am still a tough minded optimist.

  6. @ emmarcee
    Who then is to be blamed? If we are incapable of governing then what for we got the independence- which is old wine in new bottle is different matter-as we are bad masters but good servants? Have you ever come across a single political party to disseminate their intention of augmenting the per capita income of the citizen? Are we not still lagging over the same than even Indonasia? It needs good intention, good moral, good precedence, and to top it all should be selfless and empathise the ordeal of others? The canons of taxation is vanguished by this corrupt rulers who post the officials at their whims and they do duties as if in picnic spots. Are they accountable? Else entrust to military with which our internal security will be safer than at these stooges' hands

  7. V,

    "Else entrust to military with which our internal security will be safer than at these stooges' hands"

    It is a good idea. We must try it out once. I am all for it.

  8. well written article, Ravinar. While I have no idea to support or disagree with the separate state notion, one thing which Indian govt. should consider to do is to make some other city the political centre of the state, rather than the biggest metropolitan. I am saying this based on my stay in US. New York City is not the capital of New York State, Los Angeles and SFO are not the capital of California, while these three cities are respectively most populated and financially far advanced places in US. I am not saying the change can happen soon, but may be a thought to consider. Politicians always generate money where ever they are, while the vice-verse should not be allowed, per say, bringing politicians to the money centered places, or else all we see is mismanagement!

    My 2 cents

  9. @ Raji

    You're absolutely on the spot. Even Washington DC as a capital is a separate entity. One must note with some interest that in Gujarat, Ahmedabad is not the capital. Gandhinagar, 30 kms from Ahmedabad is the capital. The G'nagar capital is well laid out and planned and in turn Ahmedabad has been kept free of all the politicians and all the attendant problems. That's what makes Ahmedabad in Gujarat a great and well managed city.

    It's time the politicians and political headquarters moved out of metro cities. It will make life a lot better for the population there.

  10. Well said Ravinar,
    If we take New York state as an example, its capital is not the popular New York city but a less known Albany. This is same with almost all the states in US.


  11. The situation of Mumbai is serious and alarming.Unless corrective measures are not taken as suggested by Ravinar Mumbai will become dying city.About traffic, the average speed is 15 kms per hour.The muncipal elections in Mumbai are round the corner and mumbaikars should introspect on these issues.We have reached at the stage of point of no return in Mumbai

  12. It is indeed a very serious issue. Mumbai is a nice city that has great resources and future. To prevent Mumbai from damages, the government must do everything to correct these alarming problems.

  13. Any ideas about the burden on Mumbai city infrastructure allegedly posed by the likes of allegedly former director of Bank of Amerca allegedly named M. Ambani whose skyscraper tower home allegedly named Antila (after the legendary continent epicentre of Danavic corporatist exploitation Atlantis)allegedly uses up HALF of the entire BMC Water supply every day just to meet the allegedly BASIC Lifestyle needs of just FOUR Persons who are allegedly the SOLE BONAFIDE residents of the towering home. Some people are more equal(PREVILIGED) than others.

  14. The reservations being brought in by MH Govt have nothing to do with Mumbai. Mumbai economy is critical to the nation, dont leave it in the hands of the rustic ruffians of Maharashtras Wild East. Mumbai needs managers, visionaries and above all those who can execute on the ground. The MH govt is anything but...look at RR Patil, he hardly looks like someone who ever had a city life...Mumbai needs specialized thinking, and governance that the current structure and unfortunate location will never provide. Whether Mumbai becomes New York or Detroit will be decided in the near future...


  15. what Megacities require is more autonomy for its exisiting muncipalties and not a dumb idea like city-state. All over the world megacities are part of larger state but they have autonomous powerful Municipal corporations and "metropolitan regional development authorities".

    Singapore like cities are city-nations and not city-states. Even Dubai, New-york, Shanghai, London are not city-states but have effective local bodies.

    It is just lame excuse and illusion that our megacities had problems because they are not being made city-states.

    Megacities do not have fixed boundaries they keep growing.. what will you do? will you keep increasing boundaries of your so called city-state?
    City of Mumbai is NOT self-sufficient in water, its water comes from as far as boundaries of thane and nashik districts. Mumbai megalopolis has now spread to Thane and Raigad district. It has one of its harbor in Raigad District.

    Daily lakhs of people come to Mumbai for work and business from as far as Pune, Nashik and Surat. So only state and central governments can plan holistically for not only Megacitiy but as well its connected economies in the vicinity. State and central governments are failing in duty and municipalities and "metropolitan regional development authorities" are not autonomous enough : this is the crux of problem.
    Same is the case with other cities like Delhi, Banglore, Kolkata, Hyderabad etc.

  16. the first thing they should do is move the state assembly and mantralay and other government offices out of crowded south Mumbai and into Navi Mumbai where they have space to expand, the corporatocrazy will follow the bureaucrazy! Once cannot keep saying make mumbai a seperate state when you have so much power concentrated into the little island of bombay.


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