Mumbai needs protection
In the early 1980s, film-maker-actor Feroze Khan’s younger sibling Akbar Khan had released a film titled Hadsaa, which meant mishap. In Delhi it was screened among others at Rivoli theatre in Connaught Place. The film’s title song’s lyrics ran something like this, Yeh hai Bombay shehar, Hadso ka shehar, Yahah roz-roz, har mod par hota hai koi na koi hadsaa, hadsaa. The film proved to be a damp squib at the box office but gained some infamy as during one of the shows there was blast inside the theatre. I remember some people saying, ‘Hadsaa during the show of Hadsaa.’
But many years later as one looks back, Mumbai indeed had turned into Hadso Ka Shehar, thanks to poor governance and policing. Its administration especially law and order machinery has not been able to rise adequately to meet the challenges of rapidly expanding metropolis, specially the threat from the fundamentalist elements. The pictures on the television screens, of desecration of the memorial to the martyrs by youth belonging to a particular community, invited both anger and disdain.
It has been less than four years since Mumbai was attacked and several of Mumbaikars put to sword by Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab and his group of Pakistan-trained terrorists. Though the government chose to reward a few police officials for ‘bravery’ after the 2008 terror attack, the fact remains that be 1993, 2006, 2008 or 2011, the terror groups have attacked Mumbai at will and the Mumbai police have been found to be sitting ducks.
The desecration of the martyr’s memorial all over again underlined the pusillanimity of Mumbai police. It’s a highly politicised force, which brings in parochial pressures to adorn itself with the nation’s highest gallantry medals to assuage the ‘hurt Maharashtrian pride’, the currency which all political parties in the metropolis wants to use to increase its electoral fortune.
Mumbai’s image has also been dented by sectarian violence unleashed from time to time by the ilk of Balasaheb Thackeray and Raj Thackeray. From the obnoxious pictures of the goons of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena marauding around Mumbai beating and bashing the people from North India or his henchmen in the Maharashtra assembly roughing-up Samajwadi Party legislator Abu Azmi for taking oath in Hindi to the recent blabber by cousins Raj and Uddhav have done no good to Mumbai’s image of it being a city of dreams.
Given the political expediency, the Congress government in Maharashtra has never cared to punish Raj Thackeray beyond creating a spectacle of his arrest, grant of bail and release from custody, seldom realising that such acts would discourage people for dreaming big in Mumbai. And for sure Mumbai doesn’t belong to the Maharashtrians alone. It was first made industrially famous by Jamshetji Tata, who belonged to Gujarat. Similarly, Mumbai’s film industry was made famous by Himanshu Roy of Bombay Talkies, who wasn’t a Maharashtrian either but certainly the first big producer of Bollywood. In the last 100 years several non-Marathis worked hard for building Bollywood – K Asif, B R Films, Yashraj Films, S Mukherjee, R K Films, Navketan, Mukta Arts and so on. Other than V Shantaram, I really do not recall a Marathi-owned big production house or for that matter a Marathi star either. Would that mean that Raj Thackeray could be allowed to shut down Mumbai film industry?
If we were to stretch this logic further, an H D Deve Gowda may ask for driving out all the non-Kannadigas from Bengaluru. All the non-Telangana origin people would be asked to vacate Hyderabad and it would go on. In their practice of sectarian politics, any politician can at any time negate the contribution of migrants in the development of the state as Thackerays are doing in Maharashtra.
How do we save the Mumbaikars from not just those whose ‘pride’ keeps getting hurt but more importantly from the repeated terror and other criminal attacks? There is an urgent need to insulate Mumbai’s administration especially the police from the influence of the political bosses. This could be done by making Mumbai a Union Territory (UT), to be administered by the central government.
Chandigarh has functioned as capital of two states – Punjab and Haryana and has a central government-controlled local administration. Though there were problems in the 1980s and 1990s, both the states have come to exist together amicably with the administration of the city in the hands of the Centre. Similar model could be developed for Mumbai. It could continue to be capital of Maharashtra with its State Assembly, Secretariat and High Court located there but the maintenance of the law and order and civic governance of the metropolis being the responsibility of the Centre. The UPA government had at one point mulled over the idea to make Hyderabad a UT and capital of both Telangana and a truncated Andhra Pradesh. Though Hyderabad always had an exclusive culture and language inherited from the time of the Nizams, it turned into a true metropolitan only after it came to be inhabited by professionals coming from different parts of not only Andhra Pradesh but all over India.
The government should take this idea further and extend the Chandigarh model not just to Mumbai and Hyderabad but also to other metropolitan cities like Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata. This would help in the uniform development of the metros and rein in parochial claims over ce ntres of excellence.
Sidharth Mishra is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and consulting editor, Millennium Post.