Monday, December 8, 2008

Statehood for Bombay!

My last post on Bombay, had a few thoughts and views.

But this article by Meghnad Desai in the Indian express, is probably what I wanted to convey and could not. For ease of reading, here is the article.

And, as it says, we need Statehood for Bombay so that atleast at the grassroots, we can have decent (and human) leaders who determine and drive our destiny. Not some jokers sitting in Delhi.

Statehood for Bombay

by Meghnad Desai

I grew up in Bombay, not Mumbai. In the 1950s, it was cosmopolitan and vibrant and a lot of fun. Just looking at the Taj from the Gateway of India—Palva Bunder as we called it—was enough to give me a thrill. I could not afford even a cup of tea in the Taj then. Years later in 1993, when I came to give the Exim Bank lecture, I was able to stay there, in the old Taj, on one of those higher floors. I have stayed again several times. It was the haven of perfection, a pure joy.

Seeing the Taj burn was bad enough. The people of Bombay, who gathered angrily, had me with them every inch. My anger during those 60 hours made me believe that perhaps India itself will see how much was lost in that attack on its sovereignty. Perhaps, Indian politicians would mend their ways and unite. I could see that many people holding candles were looking up to their leaders to deliver.

Fat chance. The response of the political classes has been muffled and cynical and smug. The one shining exception is P. Chidambaram, the new Home Minister. He has been the only politician to say sorry to people of Bombay. Otherwise, the country was asked to get back to its foetal position and start blaming Pakistan. Police and politicians went on air repeating the story that the one surviving terrorist was telling them, as if the man is telling the truth. The BBC sent a reporter to where he is supposed to be from and found no one who had heard of him. He is as likely an Indian as he is an Arab, for all anyone knows. Of course, what he told them was what he was instructed to say, since the enemy knows how gullible Indian authorities are. The familiar names of Dawood Ibrahim and ISI and LeT were fed to the interrogators.

So we send off the old laundry list of names to Islamabad and ask in menacing tones for Pakistan to surrender them immediately. Is anyone serious? It is one thing for the TV newscasters to shout at Pakistanis onscreen about what they must do. They have soap to sell and TRPs to watch. But I can say with confidence that the UK Government would not entertain such a request, even from an ally, even for known convicted terrorists. There is a human rights framework, which does not permit extradition of people, who are unlikely to get justice at the other end. The arrested terrorist, Ajmal Ameer Kasab, may not even get a lawyer to defend him. Condoleezza Rice must have had to suppress her laughter when confronted with such amateurish performance. Indians can do complicated nuclear negotiations, since that is like an exercise in Vedantic hairsplitting. But when it comes to real world terror, all we get is clich├ęs.

But what are Bombayites to do? First, let us stop calling it Mumbai. Then I suggest, why not start a movement for statehood for Bombay? Why don’t Bombayites field candidates at the forthcoming elections, who would demand a separate state for Bombay, as was Nehru’s wish? That way they need not vote for any of the political parties, whose leaders abused Karkare till the day he died, and equipped him with a bullet-proof vest which was useless and a pistol to face an AK-47. Bombayites would not have to suffer the humiliation of their CM selected after several days’ delay, not on grounds of competence but of caste. A Bombayite may even qualify to be CM of Bombay! No one else in Indian politics gives a toss for Bombay and its millions.

Of course it won’t happen all at once. But if at the next election a few MLAs or an MP or two can be unseated by Bombayites, then the demand would be taken seriously. Delhi has a state for itself, so why not Bombay?


Sagarone said...

I have always thought that giving Bombay to Maharashtra was a mistake, because Bombay has always been a cosmopolitan city and has become the Bombay I know, because of its roots laid deep in its being the melting pot of India, which has welcomed migrants from all over the country and made them its own.

manju said...

DIM- which Bombay are you talking about?

Kamathipura? It is not only a red light area you know. There are thousands of people engaged in the bidi-rolling industry.
Dharavi? There are tanning industry workers, there are potters, there are people of the fishing community.
Girangaon at Parel? Thousands and thousands of mill workers now out of jobs.

Are these included in your cosmopolitan Bombay?

If Bombay gets the status of a separate state, these areas will have voting rights, too. And they may not always vote as the affluent areas vote. You may not agree with the candidates they vote for.
Then will you ask for a separate state of only the affluent areas of Bombay?

Re: Delhi. From what I understand Delhi has its high crime rate, Blue-line buses, and politicians shenanigans. I don't think our city should aspire to be like Delhi.

Sorry my reply became so long--

Does it matter said...

@ Sagarone
Yes, very true.

@ Manju
Yes, each of the areas - Kamathipura and Dharavi especially - are also part of Bombay. Specifically these 2 areas - because they are open to people from all parts of India. It is precisely this what makes it cosmopolitan.
Bombay is too big to be ruled by small & petty politicians that rule over Maharashtra. And, today, a party can rule Bombay without having any of Bombay's interests at heart. Check out all the rulers who got replaced and their replacements - Vilas Deshmukh, Rane, Patil, Chavan, Bhujbal. Inefficient and/or corrupt and/or there-because-of-their-caste. And not one of them from Bombay.

A Bombay state will mean local leaders, in power, so they will do *something* for the State-City.

Delhi, I agree, has its flaws. Delhi, also, has its privileges, virtue its being the Political Capital of India - it is a separate State.

Bombay, being the Financial Capital, deserves to be a separate State, similarly.

sunder said...

I am not sure what difference it will make...bombay is the centerstage for maharastra politics...

by the way dont accuse delhi or central politics..because they only have created bombay as the financial capital etc etc...

i get irritated when people of mumbai tell we contribute a huge share of taxes...people forget all the head office are situated in bombay and what SBI pays as tax in bombay is not for the earnings they had in mumbai only..

Vinod_Sharma said...

Rather than separating Mumbai from Maharashtra,I think it would be better if we put in place a system similar to the one in the US where the Mayor is elected by the people directly and effectively governs the city. This can be done for other big cities too.

wordjunkie said...

Thought about this some more... wouldn't Bombay be better of as a Union territory, rather than a state... no political parties, but direct President's Rule. Automatically, the governor and mayor become more relevant, and accountable.

Does it matter said...

@ Sunder
Delhi did not 'create' Bombay as the financial capital. Bombay evolved over the years as the financial capital by virtue of its positive environment and being open to all people, cosmpolitan etc. If it had been left to Delhi or any other region, the politicians would have established it in their own constituency for obvious reasons. Bombay is the financial capital of India despite Delhi, not because of.
Re the head offices, the head offices are here and not in delhi for the same reason.

@ Vinod
Yes, valid suggestion. Unless there is any power, there is no way to have any work done. Today the Mayor is a powerless political creature. The current mayor of bombay is a Shiv Sena rep, and only interested in misusing public money for foreign junkets to take her hubby on free trips, and keeping a buffalo illegally in her house to get fresh milk. And hiding in her bungalow when the attacks happened.
The legal structure to get a powerful mayor in place will never happen - so the only practical option would be to make bombay a state like delhi

@ wordjunkie
Direct president rule also means direct rule by the politicians that rule the central govt. If the sugarbelt politics of Maharashtra prevents the Pawars and Ranes of the world from concentrating on Bombay, how can we expect a cowbelt politician from a BIMARU state care any more for a city like Bombay ?
Try imagining a Laloo Yadav or Mayawati being in charge of the Central Govt and also in charge of Bombay.. Shudder!
And regarding the Prez, lesser said the better. We do not have presidents of APJ's caliber and moral fibre any more..

rain girl said...

yes. and let's rip apart J&K too, give it a "nationhood."

you are solving the wrong problem.

will this really help? what did lallu do for bihar that some bumbai walla politician will do for bombay?

i don't know ....but i really don't like this post. i am disappointed.

Indian Home Maker said...

Not a bad idea. Delhi and Bombay are kind of two capital cities of India ...
Need to think some more on this.
Do you know what a violent racket those who renamed it and then tried to change it into Aurangabad (by sending all so called outsiders back) will make?! This will become like an insult to the language and culture, we Indians are great at creating such issues out of even the most practical of thoughts !!!

Indian Home Maker said...

There's something for you on my blog :)

Deeps said...

Hey!You've been tagged here
Do let me know when you've done it

Gazal said...

long time no posts...

Indian Home Maker said...

Where are you ?
The blogosphere is missing you. You didn't even pick the Award from my blog.
Hope all's well with you, IHM

Does it matter said...

Thanks v much!, will collect some time, some day, for sure...

@ Gazal
Yes, been away..

@ Deeps
Tags, hmm... Like awards, tags too are being kept for another day, another time... Thanks though!

Anrosh said...

this sounds almost similar to how parisners say, " you must pay me just because i stay in paris".

and the people who are bambayites are the hundreds of immigrants - many many who live in a slum and on the road to give the city a life.

don't make bombay a marie antioneetes palace. bombay is the soul of the very many commoners who make it the vibrant and energetic city. don't loose the salt - the city will loose its flavor.

let bombay become the model city. Create new systems etc etc .
revitalize to perform better. give the mayor the power of the city and not the chief minister. do not put a fort around it and putting STALIN ( metaphorically) in power.