Just returned from a trip to Mumbai. I met a Career Counsellor whose help I sought for mu future plans and options after St. Stephen’s College. At this point, I am horrible confused about where my career is headed and what I intend to do after my College finishes. I hope all goes well but my disastrous exams and the tension of the results really do not help.
At one time, Mumbai was the most developed and urbane city in India. Those days, Delhi was nothing but an upcoming city where the people had not quite embraced ‘urban’ or ‘metropolis’ like tendencies. Anybody who visited Delhi in the 1990’s came back with the same old sob story of how the city was full of people who steal and stories such as underwear advertisements on the walls of the Red Fort. Modern day Connaught Place was a far cry from what it was even ten years ago. The general perception is that Delhi is still unsafe, which could be true as well.
Yet, I have no doubt in saying that Mumbai is now a city in decline. The death knell of the city has rung and there are multiple reasons for this. To begin with, Delhi getting statehood has helped the city a lot in budget allowances as in India grants are made looking at population density and Delhi, being a city state scores very high on that count. The Bandra- Worli Sea Link is not the toast of the city but few remember that it took ten whole years, and five Chief Ministers to finally complete it. If this is the case, we can well imagine how much time would the sea link till Haji Ali and subsequently till Nariman Point take. The city is permanently stuck in traffic and travelling in Mumbai is nothing short of an ordeal. The public transport is strong but overcrowded and in desperate need of reform. Few could have imagined Delhi getting such a superb Metro ten years ago.
Bal Thackeray and the Shiv Sena have always complained of the poor treatment being given to Mumbai for decades now. This reasoning is partially true as well. But, even if something is totally true, it becomes false and regressive the moment parties such as the Shiv Sena open their mouths and merge it with their style of politics. Population influx remains a big problem in that city. Every day, thousands of people enter the city in search of a better living and hoping that this city changes their life into heaven. This has produced mixed results. Most importantly, the burden on the resources has been tremendous. Everywhere in Mumbai one sees slums. These slums are not ordinary slums but scores of immigrants who are caught in the political cross fire in Maharashtra. The Maharashtra government has never had a long term slum rehabilitation plan and this has hurt the fortunes of the city. Illegal colonies come up and they are legalised for ulterior motives and the Congress Party has scored the most self goals in this regard. The city airport to is unable to cope with the needs of the passengers and there is acute infrastructure shortage.
Another thing that was notable was the number of Raj Thackeray posters and Maharashtra Navanirman Sena flags all over the city. It is very clear that Maratha pride still sells in Maharashtra and it is also true that there is rampant poverty among Maharashtrians While I too am a firm believer in the principle of meritocracy, let me also make it clear that the idea that low jobs in offices which require little skill must always remain with domiciled people. This principle is not a fundamentally unsound one. Where little skill is required and jobs that are not very technical, the unemployed youth of that particular state must get preference and this is the only way to curb unemployment. But, the blatant appeasement of Maratha people be it the Shiv Sena and the MNS or the State government which promises to build a Shivaji statue on Marine Drive like the Statue of Liberty and the 90:10 SSC quota is taking it too far.
Elections are also due in Maharashtra and as it appears now, the Congress- NCP combine has the edge over the Shiv Sena and BJP alliance. Raj Thackeray also has a very crucial role especially in the Mumbai- Thane and Konkan regions. This is the first election for the Shiv Sena after Narayan Rane and this will affect its prospects in Konkan too. Raj Thackeray will affect it in Mumbai, as he did in the Lok Sabha polls and the party not very strong in Western Maharashtra which still looks up to Sharad Pawar. The Congress and NCP have many strong leaders in their fold ranging from Ashok Chavan, Chaggan Bhujbal, RR Patil, Jayant Patil and the former Chief Ministers from both parties who serve in the cabinet. The BJP is caught in an intense turf war between Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari while I cannot think of anybody from the Shiv Sena except Udhav Thackeray who can take over the CM char. Manohar Joshi is a spent force and Subhash Desai and Ramdas Kadam are political lightweights. This may well be a good chance for Thackeray Jr. to become another Omar Abdullah and carry the legacy forward. Otherwise, the Congress- NCP may well enter its third successive term in government in Maharashtra.