Mumbai the city of dreams is India's premier city of oppurtunities. With a population of above 2 crore it continues to attract all types of persons from all over India. Everyday thousands of Indians flock into the country's business capital in search of their livelihood.
Seven islands constitute the the city of Mumbai which till 1996 was known as Bombay . It was the name given to it by the Portugese and meant the good bay. It has one of the deepest harbours in the country which made it into a sea port of great potential.
The present name Mumbai is derived from the city's ruling diety Mumba Devi and ai in Marathi means mother. The British East India Company shifted its headquartres from Surat to Bombay in 1687. That was the begining of the transformation of the seven islands into a well connected single mass. It soon became the headquarters of Bombay Presidency and then was to become the head of all the Company's establishments in India. Later on the city was to come under the control of the British after 1857. In 1947 it became part of the independent Indian Union.
Since 1687 onwards the city of Bombay has seen tremendous growth in various sectors. The immense oppurtunities that emerged due to the virgin islands becoming centres of manufacturing, international trading and finance, saw people from all over the country come to work and subsequently settle. The original inhabitants of the islands were the fishermen. But it soon saw influx of people from all walks of life and religions.
Bombay became the most busy seaport in South Asia especially after the opening of the Suez Canal in1896. Earlier in 1853, India's first passenger railway line was established between Bombay and nearby Thane. It became one of the world's largest cotton trading centres. Its port handled a majority of India's imports and exports. m
Manufacturing industries especially in cotton processing were set up by the dozens. All these business activities brought unprecedented economic boom to its citizens and made Bombay a premier world city. It also became the financial capital of India.
The population of the city kept going up with great speed due to migration from all over the country. It became home for the Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Jews and Sikhs. It became multi lingual and developed a Bombaya Hindi whch is so pleasant to hear. This amalagamation of different communities, languages and cultures gave birth to the city becoming the centre for the immensely popular Hindi movie industry and also tne Marathi film industry.
Bombay developed a unique culture of its own. The secular nature of its citizens gave equal oppurtunities to all of them to make a safe living. Independent india was to soon divide the country into linguistic based States. Single language became the base for formation if States.
In 1961 the Bombay Presidency was bifurcated into the States of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Bombay became the capital of Maharashtra. Since then the narrow outlook of some parties who wanted to create space for themselves in Mumbai started gradually attracting attention. In order to create a mass base for themselves, they staretd blaming the non Marathi migrants, for the ills of the city. First it was directedbagainst the South Indians then for a brief period against the Gujaratis. Now the poor Bihari is the target.
A city which is totally built by migrants is sought to be localised by politicians who otherwise have no agenda to offer. They want to muscle in their way into the city's political space by directing the people's anger at the Biharis. Tomorrow it could be the Bengalis or Punjabis.
It is time a serious thought should be given to converting the cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkatta into city states. They should be declared as all India cities and no single language will have precedence. Anyone can work and settle in them. They will have their own assembly to govern them. They will raise their own finances and plan the development of their cities themselves.
A difficut concept today but a dialog can be initiated. City states are perhaps the only way to ensure a wonderful city like Mumbai continues to grow independent of the narrow outlook and culture of hatred that is propagated by a few vested interests.