Wish list 2013
Here's a cliche to begin the New Year: Mumbai is no longer Urbs Prima Indica. But you already knew that, didn't you? Our city has been in gradual decline for so many years that we don't even realise it, just like we do not notice the wrinkles on the face of a beloved person we see every day - perhaps because we are blind to it. Or worse, indifferent.
But this city is our city. It belongs to each and every one of the 20 million people that have made it home, and each and every one of that 20 million would want to see this city regain its pride, its primacy as one of the great cities of the world.
The struggle is a tough one: a corrupt administration that is apathetic to Mumbai’s concerns and an utter lack of civic sense, combined with haphazard planning. Yet, as citizens, we must demand the very best for Mumbai. This is MiD DAY’s wish list for Mumbai on behalf of its people.
Open, green spaces
Mumbai’s green cover is less than 20 per cent of its total area, to say nothing of open spaces. Open spaces are so rare that builders reserve a minuscule part of their plot as a “jogging track” and call it a “luxury amenity”. Or take encroachments inside the National Park. We wish to see more open spaces, and greater green cover and protect existing ones from builders and the BMC.
Also: As our Guide team demands on P6 of HitList, we need open spaces for performing arts that are free and open to all.
Ah, our favourite pet peeve. And indeed the single greatest shame for this city with global aspirations. Mumbai has close to 2,000 km of roads, and yet, only a minor percentage of that is world class. Every year, the BMC fills thousands of potholes, and every monsoon, like clockwork, they are back. This year, demand pothole-free roads from the BMC. It is not a luxury; it is your right as a tax-paying citizen. Speak up, and we will support you. We, too, shall speak up and ask you to support us.
Zero moral policing
When our political parties and police (the real ones, not the fake moral police) have nothing to offer to its citizens, they do what they like best: stop couples from holding hands, disrupt Valentine’s Day, stop us from partying by enacting so many restrictive laws that even the Taliban would proud of them, tell us what to do and what not to do, well, you know how it is. This year, we must not only wish but also demand that the moral police lay off. Keep your hands off us.
Cab, auto drivers who say yes
If 2012 was annus horribilis as far as public transport was concerned, it was only because of taxi drivers and auto-rickshaw drivers who, taking advantage of lack of choice for commuters, harassed them no end with strikes, refusals to ply short distances and even abused them. This year, we stand up to their bullying and demand a safe, guaranteed ride to our destinations. We must not be immune to their problems. Of course, they are true. But we need to reach home, too.
Metro and monorails
Mumbai is one of the few world cities that do not have a robust Metro railway. London built one more than century ago. New York has one of the best in the world. So do Paris, Kuala Lumpur and many other cities. Our railway network is North-South, while the extremely busy East-West corridor has only road transport connections. After almost a decade of planning and execution, will the Metro and Monorails finally see light of day in 2013? We so wish they would.
Rebuild Mumbai cricket
Mumbai’s cricket team has won the Ranji Trophy on more occasions than any other cricket association in the land — 39 times. Yet, city cricket is nowhere near good health. Mumbai cricket lovers enter a new year with a prayer on their lips yet again. Several experts feel Dilip Vengsarkar is the best man to lead Mumbai cricket out of the rut. Will he be allowed to do so by the clubs (through their all-important votes) that helped build Mumbai cricket’s citadel is a million-dollar question. After that, Vengsarkar and his team must deliver.
One of the best services any local administration can deliver to its residents is a walking-friendly city. Mumbai is not one. Paris is one, Sydney is another. So is Washington, DC. Not Mumbai, with its encroachments by roadside sellers, slumlords, druggies and even ugly flowerpots (ironically kept to keep encroachers out).
In 2013, we demand encroachment-free footpaths. And the administration will have to deliver. And while we are at it, we must ask for bicycle-friendly lanes, too. Once again, not a luxury.
Safe streets, safer night life
Long before the horrific gang rape took place in Delhi and jolted the nation, Mumbai has had its share of late-night molestation cases. Even one case of molestation or rape is one case too many. In 2013, we need to reclaim our streets so that we, our families, feel safe to return home even late at night. We need a more vibrant and a safer night life. This city works hard; it deserves to play hard, too. Just like any other great city in the world.
Schools that teach how to learn, not how to get marks
Our schooling is entirely dependent on rote learning. Even if after the Right to Education Act, which prohibits exams until Std VIII and only encourages weekly or monthly evaluations and grades, the stress level among our kids is so high that parents do not know how to deal with it. Schools must be encouraged to teach children how to learn and how to be more curious, not how to get more marks. A wiser generation will enhance our social capital like nothing else.
Mumbai loves its food. But it also has to tackle with food Nazis such as a corrupt, rent-seeking establishment that creates a scarcity of licences and then forces food-stall entrepreneurs to pay their regular hafta. As a result, even streetside food is out of bounds for the poor. By creating food districts with international standards of hygiene and easy licensing, not only would we encourage tourism, it would also make Mumbai a food destination. Just like any other world-class city. It’s certainly not too much to ask for, is it?