The pandemic has as such shown us the risk of staying in congested cities like Mumbai. While the blue-collared migrants fled for their life, many, the white-collared ones, who are now back at their parents home in smaller cities, working from there, are rethinking about coming back at all. Many, who are living in the city, with children staying indoors almost all the time, are wondering whether it is worth living like this? Even if we get over this pandemic, what happens when the next one strikes?
While such thoughts were as such raging, we read this news that many jewellery manufacturers from Mumbai have been making a beeline to Surat Special Economic Zone (SurSEZ) in Sachin area of the diamond city to set up shop or expand their business. Availability of labour and that too at a much lesser price, lower cost of realty, tax free status in the SEZs, exemption on import duty on raw materials if fully exported and a host of such other factors has lured the diamond and jewellery exporters to shift base from Mumbai to Surat.
Since April 2019, 22 new units started operations in the SurSEZ, of which 18 are diamond jewellery firms of Mumbai. Bang in the middle of the pandemic too, four units from Mumbai decided to expand their operation in Surat instead of Mumbai.
Apart from losing a major chunk of its port business also to Gujarat, the big blow was in May when the Central Govt decided to locate the newly-created International Financial Services Centre Authority (IFSC) Gandhinagar. The IFSC is aimed at bringing in investment and financial companies and has positioned itself as the best go-between for financial markets of East - Singapore and Hong Kong – and west, ranging from Dubai to Frankfurt and London. The infrastructure is yet to get going and surely it will take some convincing to get financial firms to move to Gujarat from Mumbai but when all know that it has the backing of Modi, geography might not matter much. After all, Modi’s pet peeve project – GIFT is gaining momentum and everyone knows that if it has the blessings of the center, nothing will be allowed to go wrong. And now, we have the bullet train too, bidding for which has begun, to connect Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
So the question is – is Mumbai losing its charm? Well, the hard truth is that Mumbai is really a very very crowded city and it has become virtually impossible for one to lead a good quality of life here. Poor roads, apathy of the BMC, goondagiri of the trade unions and fringe political parties, teeming crowds, very dirty, high cost of living; overall, a new visitor to the city will be appalled.
Despite knowing all this, the political parties in Mumbai seem to be more interested in bickering and fighting over who takes and does not take drugs in Bollywood, whether Rhea killed SSR? We can fight for these issues once the more pressing issues of consistent floods and corona is taken care of. Talking about makaan, Mumbai has actually become a gamblers den for realtors. Everything is always about the cost of land, development and ultimate price of the flat – majority of them matchbox size. Comparing ourselves to New York’s Manhattan or Tokyo is really being stupid; there realty is exorbitant but it matches with the quality of life in a metropolitan.
Survive is what we all do for five days a week and live is what we try to do on weekends. The harsh reality is that be it Mumbai or Delhi, both are bursting at their seams and unless the other smart cities come up and provide employment to people in smaller cities, this sad story will continue. Maybe the pandemic will indeed set things right – after all they say that everything happens for a cause and for the ultimate good, isn’t it?