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Can Mumbai retain its commercial hub status?

Mumbai is known as the commercial capital of India. We praise the city’s resilience; it’s never say die attitude and the famous Mumbai spirit. It is cluster of seven islands deemed to be throwaway dowry, chosen by East India Company to be developed for logistical reasons. Many people migrate to the city in search of livelihood. Initially tram services existed in the city followed by famous local trains, BEST buses and now Metro services has started. Judging by all this, Mumbai is on the fast track to becoming the commercial hub of India…right? I may not win many fans here for saying this as reality is far different. A saying goes, “Some are born great, and some have greatness thrust upon them” Mumbai falls in the latter category.

There are many 2 tier cities developing and once these cities take a strong hold, Mumbai will loose its status as the commercial hub. For retaining its commercial hub status Mumbai will have to undergo a lot of changes. I enlist some of them here:

Infrastructure: Admit it or not, Mumbai infrastructure is definitely not world class. It may be better compared to slow moving Kolkata, but certainly cannot match the class of Tokyo or New York. Why, Mumbai’s infrastructure cannot even stand shoulder to shoulder with China’s well connected roads and bullet trains. Our trains are overcrowded, late the minute monsoon hits us, and motorists have a tough time trying to locate the road amidst potholes. Throw in some flood and traffic jam, and the perfect Mumbai Monsoon scene is ready for media to glorify.

Tier-II cities: Mumbai has to be able to compete with the tier two cities now which are developing. Navi-Mumbai, Mumbai’s satellite city, itself, is giving Mumbai a run for its money.

The satellite city is home to many IT parks and head office of various corporates. The same is true for Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and more recently Noida and Pune. These second rung cities have the advantage of being better planned and equipped with better infrastructure, lesser population, tax breaks etc. Mumbai, on the other hand is crowded, expensive and polluted.

Cosmopolitan Outlook: Mumbai is, whatever it is due to the contribution of immigrants and localities alike, until its politicos admit this fact and accept immigrants as a part of the city without forcing them to blend in or lose their individuality.

Terror Threat: The recent 26/11 terror attack tells a different story. No commercial capital of a country would be so ill equipped as to not be able to detect and prevent such attacks on time. While some may argue that Manhattan was a victim of 9/11, Mumbai continues to remain a soft target. Terror has sneaked up on us not once, like our US counterpart, but thrice…1992 riots, 2006 blasts and 2008 attacks; all caught Mumbai unawares.

In short, for Mumbai to truly become India’s commercial hub, the quality of life, infrastructure, security needs to be enhanced.

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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