It is no secret that successive governments in Maharashtra have ignored Mumbai's development. So much so that, incumbent Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, while talking to this newspaper said that the city is dying and there is an urgent need to resurrect it. He also outlined a five-point plan to make that happen.
While his intentions are noble, it needs to be seen whether he can muster political will to get it implemented. For instance, one of his most ambitious schemes is to rid the city of slums and to make home buying simpler by forcing builders to sell flats by carpet area and not super built-up area. He also talks of instituting a housing regulator to ensure that corruption in the industry is minimised.
Naturally, home buyers should rejoice at this. But that does not seem to be happening. Real estate lobbies and political pressure groups are so strong in Mumbai that they have managed to thwart any reform in the real estate sector. As a result, builders (and the politicians and bureaucrats associated with them) have gained significantly, while the common home buyer has had to suffer.
Even if Chavan manages to bring a semblance of transparency into the process, he would have won a major victory. Yet, even that seems to be some time away despite his promises. The other raw nerve for Mumbai is roads. Once again, Chavan has promised corrective action by appointing a Swiss certification firm to inspect Mumbai's roads based on world-class parameters. While this is a welcome step, his bigger achievement would be the eradication of the road contractors' mafia that has a virtual stranglehold on the municipal corporation.
Mr Chavan, a Delhi man for all practical purposes, had parachuted into Mumbai following the Adarsh Society scandal last year, in which four former chief ministers were embroiled. So, he has nothing to lose even if lobbies manage to push him back to Delhi, his preferred city. It is precisely this safety net that should make him push for reforms.