Mumbai has been in headlines for the last few days and we have seen some very parochial politics being played there and elsewhere in Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists are on a rampage against the North Indian migrants in Mumbai and Maharashtra. The “Bhaiyas”, a common pejorative for the North Indians living in Mumbai, are being targeted because the MNS believes that these migrants, especially from UP and Bihar, are creating a nuisance in the city and are grabbing a share of the Marathi people.
Raj Thackeray is struggling to gain some political relevance, and ahead of the 2009 assembly polls, he has aroused regionalism to meet his vested interests. He wants to project himself as the true ‘Marathi Manoos Saviour’. However, he has stooped to a new low in the politics by attacking 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, the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister were busy attending functions, while the Police Commissioner of the city was busy playing the host to Raj Thackeray at his daughter’s wedding. There is an allegation that Congress-NCP kept quiet, since they realized it would be difficult to regain power in Maharashtra after 10 years of exile, in the office. Needless to say that if Raj Thackeray could eat some of the Marathi vote banks of the Shiv Sena, it would ultimately help the Congress-NCP. On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party (SP) wants to expand its base in Maharashtra, following the large population of North Indians in the city and this tirade of Raj Thackeray has provided the SP a golden goose that they were on a lookout for. They are leaving no stone unturned to project themselves as “The saviors of the North Indian people”. Both the MNS and the SP are at loggerheads with one another in order to woo the voters. The BJP, a national party which is struggling to project its pan India outlook, is reluctant to change its hollow and orthodox outlook in Maharashtra. Instead of condemning Raj 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 CM 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 the concept of our national unity. Our Constitution has given the right to every citizen to work and earn living anywhere in the country. However, 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 any heed towards the development of India as a whole. In fact, the little development which has happened is centered around the state capitals and mostly around Delhi and Mumbai. The non- development in the other cities lead to birth of regional outfits and parties that 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 here to make a better living. In Mumbai, there is a 70% 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. The United Nations 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 the BMC. If it tries to replace slums, there are protests; if it takes action against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants; there are protests; if they take steps against unauthorized settlements; they are also 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 fearing political imbalance. Mumbai requires Rs. 2, 34,000 crores for infrastructure development, however, the Central Government has budgeted Rs. 35,100 crore for the whole of Maharashtra. We need to be more practical and focus on the solutions rather than aggravating the current situation. A more inclusive approach is required and driving away immigrants is not going to be of any help. One such approach can be to decentralize the jobs from Mumbai to nearby areas such as Panvel and Vasai. The world’s largest cities like New York, Shanghai, and Tokyo which have faced similar problems in the past, have successfully implemented this solution. Hence there is no reason why Mumbai can’t do the same as well.
Secondly, why people from UP and Bihar migrate the most? If you observe closely you will find that the people from these two states migrate to all over the country, Punjab, Assam, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, etc. One of the reasons 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. 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 politicians are so corrupted that they eat all funds diverted by centre for development. Anil Ambani’s power project in Dadri was stalled by the Mayawati Government, probably because it was cleared by her political rival. When a private player is meted with such a treatment, how will you expect him to set a factory in the state? This politics of “Vendetta” has lead to a 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 of the state either. For them, development is restricted to opening of new parks, lawns, memorials, etc. They never ponder to encourage the growth rate, number of industries, boosting agriculture, small scale industries and power plants in the state. With no option left at their disposal, people from these two states migrate. The people of these two states also need to be blamed for the condition of their states. They always fall prey to vested motives and are unaffected by the underdevelopment in their states. Otherwise, they would have made their elected representatives more accountable. The politicians from UP and Bihar are baying for Raj 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 states, they should concentrate on 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 happier if Amar Singh, Mayawati, Lalu Prasad who are the ‘true saviors’ of the people from their states do something to improve the living standards in UP and Bihar. The people of UP-Bihar have immense potential and this is evident from their success stories with reference to the number of engineers, doctors and civil servants from these states every year. Unfortunately, their own state cannot tap their talent. I will be happy to sacrifice my MNC job and work for the upliftment of my state, provided the Government also shows some positive signs.
Whatever is happening in Mumbai is very sad. It is basically a 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 they are never understood by the people but they do play and become a part of it.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/balaji_shankar/190222315/]