The troubles of Maharashtras government that have followed allegations that apartments in a housing complex in downtown Mumbais Cuffe Parade were allotted to relatives of Chief Minister Ashok Chavan reveal,once again,the wretched state of Maharashtras politics and its malign influence on Mumbai. The resonance of the allegations with many in Mumbai is easily explained: it serves as a focus for a multitude of concerns that have become common in that city. The availability of reasonable real estate for families,for one,and the increasing sense that too much of the available land or apartments are subject to the discretion of those in power,for one. And,for another,that the Congress-NCP coalition that has ruled Maharashtra for a decade and,indeed,all of the states parties have little to offer its capital,wasting their energy instead on a backward-looking,dangerous form of politics that will only serve to cripple further the growth of a town that could instead have expected to be the engine of Indias advancement.
Even as Delhi and the National Capital Region have begun to grow beyond both the fact and the image of being a sarkari town,the influence of power and politics in the traders town of Mumbai has gone in the opposite direction. It is now a generally accepted fact that too many of Indias cities suffer because those who rule the states in which they are located view them as little more than sources of revenue,places where clever real-estate games can be played and not as magnets for opportunity,or generators of all-round prosperity. If you are willing to allow divisive politics to determine your method of governance,you wind up with a politicised,not a prosperous city. And the people of Mumbai,above all,sense that how could they not,after all the disappointments they have had to live with?
Mumbai is not strangling itself. Its people remain as they always have,among the most entrepreneurial in the world. Its government is strangling it. Nothing is needed more than a straightforward reform of how property is managed; this has been known for years,and yet it hangs unimplemented. Old-fashioned,land-ceiling thinking must go. A proper register of land holdings must be created. Places still in thrall to half-century old rent legislation must be freed to have a proper market operate. Only then will political and criminal control of apartments,which the people of Mumbai so resent,end.