MUMBAI IS in headlines for last few days and we have seen some very parochial politics being played in Mumbai and in the country over all. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists are on rampage against North Indian migrants in Mumbai and Maharashtra.
The ‘bhaiyyas’, common pejorative for North Indians living in Mumbai, are being targeted because MNS believes that these migrants, especially from Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar are creating nuisance in the city and are taking the share of Marathi people.
Raj Thackeray is struggling to gain some political relevance and ahead of 2009 assembly polls, he has aroused regionalism to meet his vested interests. He wants to project himself as a true saviour ‘Marathi manus’. But he has touched a new low in the politics by pitting people of one region against another. Such tactics can be very deadly and may lead to total chaos and unrest in Mumbai.
The state government also kept quiet for a week, chief minister and deputy chief minister were busy attending functions, while police commissioner of the city hosted Thackeray at his daughter’s wedding. There is an allegation that Congress-NCP (National Congress Party) kept quiet because it knew that it would be difficult to regain power in Maharashtra after ten years in the office. If Thackeray can eat some of the Marathi vote bank of Shiv Sena, it will ultimately help Congress-NCP.
On the other hand, Samajwadi Party (SP) wants to expand its base in Maharashtra following the large population of North Indians in the city, and this tirade of Thackeray has provided SP a golden goose they were looking for. They are leaving no stone unturned to project themselves as saviours of North Indians.
Both MNS and SP are at loggerheads in order to woo the voters. BJP, a national party that is struggling to project its pan India outlook, is reluctant to change the hollow and illiberal outlook in Maharashtra. The criticism of Thackeray by BJP appears hollow. Instead of mentioning Thackeray for his ugly remarks, they demanded the resignation of the chief minister. It seems that they are on some other track. They need to be told that the resignation of the chief minister is not going to diffuse the tension, which is primary at the moment.
The notion that a particular city belongs to its natives and the people from other states or regions cannot work in that city is totally against the very essence of our Constitution and concept of national unity. Our Constitution has given right to every citizen to work and earn living anywhere in the country. But the recent incident has made me think on two points.
Firstly, what makes people leave their homes?
Herein lies another aspect of our politics. In the last 60 years, our political leaders and political parties have succeeded in enjoying themselves in the politics of non-development. The national parties are mainly responsible for this. They never paid heed to the development of India as a whole. In fact, the little development that has happened is centered around the state capitals and mostly around Delhi and Mumbai. The non-development in the other cities leads to birth of regional outfits and parties, which have no sensitivity towards the nation as a whole. No one can deny the fact that maximum job opportunities are available in these two metros only. Therefore, people migrate to make better living. In Mumbai, there is 70 per cent population of migrants who have come from every nook and corner of the country. Thus, Mumbai, South Asia’s biggest city, is choking. Everyday over 40 families arrive in Mumbai.
United Nations (UN) report says that Mumbai will have 30 million people by the year 2015, which makes it the world’s second most crowded city after Tokyo. This rising population stretches the infrastructure such as roads, water, railways, electricity, residences, law enforcement, etc. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is considered to be the best in the country, has failed miserably to create better infrastructure. The hindrances from various political outfits are also making life difficult for BMC. If it tries to replace slum, there are protests; if it takes action against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, there are protests; if it takes steps against unauthorised settlements, it is not allowed to do so.
Mumbai is crumbling but none of the politicians are taking any comprehensive review of this chronic situation. They are unable to act tough, as they may loose something politically. Mumbai requires Rs 2,34,000 crores for infrastructure development but New Delhi has budgeted Rs 35,100 crore for whole Maharashtra. We need to be more practical and focus on the solutions rather than aggravating it. A more inclusive approach is required, and driving away immigrants is not going to help anyway. One of the approaches can be to decentralise the jobs from Mumbai to nearby areas such as Panvel and Vasai. The world’s largest cities like New York, Shanghai, Tokyo that faced similar problems have successfully implemented this solution. Then why can’t Mumbai? Political will is required.
Secondly, why people from UP and Bihar migrate most?
If you observe closely, you will find people from these two states all over the country. Punjab, Assam, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, to name few. One reason is that the labour from these two states is cheap and hardworking, ready to do jobs such as driving taxi, housekeeping, milkman etc. The main reason, though, is that the politicians of UP and Bihar are worthless with no self respect. The elections in these two states are never fought on the agenda of development, but on the petty issues of caste, community and religion. The politicos are so corrupted that they eat all funds diverted by centre for development. Mayawati government stalled Anil Ambani’s power project in Dadri, probably because it was cleared by her political rival. When a private player is meted with such a treatment, how can you expect him to set a factory in the state? This politics of ‘vendetta’ has led to dearth of private sector in UP and Bihar. There is no infrastructure in these two states and the politicos have no knowledge of the economics. For them, development is restricted to opening of new parks, lawns, memorials, etc. They never ponder to encourage the growth rate, number of private players, boosting agriculture, small-scale industries, and power plants in the state. With no option left at their disposal, the people of these two states are also needed to be blamed for the condition of the state. They always fall prey to vested motives and are very happy with underdevelopment in the state. Otherwise, they should have made their elected representatives more accountable.
The politicians from UP and Bihar are baying for Thackeray’s arrest but if they feel so insulted, then they should take the daunting task to provide job opportunities to people in their own state. Instead of expanding their political base in other state, they should concentrate on the well being of the people in their own state. Every regional party wants to go national but their motives are regional centric only. I would be more happy if Amar Singh, Mayawati, Lalu Prasad, who are ‘true saviours’ of the people from their state, do something to improve the living standards in UP and Bihar. The people of UP-Bihar have immense potential and are showed by their success stories with reference to number of engineers, doctors, and civil servants. But unfortunately, their own state cannot tap their talent. I will be happy to sacrifice my multinational corporation (MNC) job and work for upliftment of my state, provided government shows some positive signs.
Whatever is happening in Mumbai is very sad. It is basically part of regional chauvinism and parochial politics played at the expense of some very poor people. Nothing will come out of this situation and only poor will suffer. Political games are such that the people never understand these but they do play and become a part of it.