City of the indifferent

The cold reception to social activist Anna Hazare's fast in Mumbai is typical of a city that has never played a large role in national politics in recent times. Whether this apathy is good or bad for the city, is not the question; what needs to be examined is the very nature of its indifference.

Take the voting pattern of the city during the 2009 general elections, a mere six months after the horrendous terror attack on November 26, 2008 that saw 170 persons dead. Only about half of the city's eligible population voted. This despite the fact that almost every single citizen of Mumbai had risen in anger and taken to the streets following the attack asking for an overhaul of the political system. After the serial blasts of 1993, the train blasts of 2006, the series of blasts in 2003, practically each time, the so-called 'Spirit of Mumbai' has come in the way of genuine grief and concrete action.

This apathy may come to bite the city hard. Politicians know and understand the indifference, and as a result, have been able to ignore the city's needs for security, infrastructure, etc. The trouble is, Mumbai's civil society -- which is more or less a leader when it comes to candle-light marches -- has not been able to demand and acquire clean and efficient governance. As a result, the city's institutions are both lethargic and corrupt. Its law enforcement has reached new lows, and infrastructure development has not taken any great strides in the last decade.

This is not to say that Anna's 'movement' is right or wrong. On the contrary, this newspaper has severely criticised the tactics employed by 'Team Anna' to garner attention and to achieve its goal of getting its version of the Lokpal Bill passed, and not anyone else's. Yet, the flop show at MMRDA ground is symptomatic of Mumbai's severe apathy, something that the city can ill-afford.

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