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Enemy number 2: The politicians

December 23, 2008

A major metropolis like Mumbai is governed by individuals whose interests lie in some faraway village. Such a politician can stay in power and govern the entire state by keeping those few villagers happy -- or scared enough. Why should he be expected to have any serious interest or empathy for the residents of Mumbai, who cannot influence his career and are also so culturally alien to him?

As long as he and his colleagues can use the resources generated by the hardworking. successful citizens of Mumbai for the benefit of their constituents and their party, why should they be concerned with the well-being of Mumbai?

The solution therefore lies in following the simple democratic principle of giving citizens of Mumbai the government they deserve. Why not let Mumbai be spun off into a state (a la Delhi)? Let it choose its own leaders, set up systems to ensure accountability, and reward and punish them for performance. If there is one thing Mumbai understands, it is this philosophy.

With political accountability will come performance, and with performance, positive change.

Let us create a hot focus on this single objective and channel the immense public energy to achieve this goal, before it dies out.

We can then develop models to meet the socialistic responsibilities of a wealthy city like Mumbai towards the rest of the state and the country, in collaboration with the Centre.

It is not difficult to recognise the political obstacles to such a major change. Therefore, why can we not start by demanding local governance by a mayor for the city, a chief executive officer who is empowered to manage it within the classic models of authority, responsibility and accountability?

The mayor should be elected directly by the people of the city. Given time, a structural change such as this will more likely provide solutions to problems like security, crime, infrastructure, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and most importantly corruption.

Image: Protestors in Mumbai after the attacks. Photograph: Sanjay Sawant

Also read: Rajeev Srinivasan: Are we heading to a failed State?
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