Mumbai: “The Commissioner rejected our demand and said the hawkers were free to move court. I warn that if hawkers are evicted, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) staff would get beaten,” said Sanjay Nirupam, Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) president and former Member of Parliament.
This was Nirupam on the drive launched by Mumbai municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta against unauthorized hawkers who are blocking footpaths.
“If not India, will Ganpati festival now be celebrated in Pakistan? The tradition was started by Lokmanya Tilak, not Dawood. It’s sad that our own people approach the court with such complaints,” said Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray.
Thackeray was reacting to a Bombay High Court order which asked MCGM to ensure Ganesh pandals do not obstruct movement of traffic and cause hardship to the common man.
Then, leaders of all parties except Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rushed to express their support to a Marathi family from Dahisar, a western suburb of the city, who was allegedly attacked by the members of their own housing cooperative society for cooking non-vegetarian food as majority of the society’s residents are Gujaratis and Marwaris.
BJP leaders are trying to stay away from the controversy because they fear if they intervene they will alienate its trading community vote bank in Mumbai and it will give an opportunity to other parties to paint BJP as anti-Marathi.
Apart from this, Thackeray family scion and president of Yuva Sena (Sena’s youth wing) Aditya Thackeray was involved in a controversy over installation of an open air gym on Mumbai’s iconic Marine Drive.
These were the issue which dominated front pages of Mumbai’s both Marathi and English newspapers over the last fortnight. This may give an impression that Mumbaikars no longer travel in suburban trains packed like sardines, roads are completely pothole-free, Mumbai no longer gets waterlogged during monsoon and life in the country’s financial and entertainment capital is as good as the world’s other financial centres such as New York, London, Singapore and Hong Kong.
And since there are no major issues of infrastructure left to be addressed, politicians from city are fighting over trivial emotive issues as they also have to keep themselves relevant. But alas, nothing has changed for the common Mumbaikar. Suburban trains are packed and they often get delayed because of issues like signal failure, snapping of overhead electric wires and other such issues.
Mumbai’s roads can compare favourably with craters on the moon and only on 19 June, the city had come to a standstill after heavy downpour as both the suburban railway network and roads got waterlogged.
However, the common man has never heard Congress politicians organizing a protest march to demand better roads for Mumbaikars or questioning railway minister Suresh Prabhu, a resident of the city, as to what he is doing to improve Mumbai’s suburban network. Nor has anyone seen Congress politicians taking Shiv Sena, which controls MCGM, to task for more than two decades on the slow pace of implementation of Brihanmumbai Storm Water Disposal System or Brimstowad. The project is supposed to solve Mumbai’s perennial problem of water logging during the monsoon.
Instead, Nirupam chose the easy route to emerge as a saviour of hawkers as the majority of them are non-Maharashtrians and mostly from North India, so that Congress’s North Indian vote bank in the city remains intact.
Similarly, instead of making the right to celebrate festivals on streets a prestige issue and try to project himself as champion of Mumbai’s Marathi population, the same Marathi-speaking Mumbaikars would have been much better off, had Thackeray made the issue of giving Mumbaikars pothole-free roads a prestige issue or used his good offices to prevail upon civic administration to get going on Brimstowad which is only half complete even though it was launched almost decade back.
Election to MCGM is due in January 2017 and may perhaps explain the behaviour of our politicians.
As long as Mumbaikars continue to vote on narrow linguistic, sectarian and communal lines, our politicians are not going to change.