Sunday, August 29, 2010

Singapore & Mumbai

I am not history expert, but recently I read about history of Singapore and i thought of uncanny similarities between Singapore & Mumbai.

Singapore gained independence from Malaysia in 1965. Since then it has grown from a developing nation to a developed one. In fact, I remember reading somewhere that by 1950, Calcutta, Singapore and Rangoon, all located quite close by were at same economic level. But in next 60 years, Singapore has become develped, Calcutta has been on decline, while Rangoon has been lost into oblivion ubder military junta. Pardon me for degression, but that's not point of this blog.

When Singapore & Malaysia became independent from British rule, Malaysian confederation was formed. Under new constitution, ethnic Malays were given special previleges. Now, Singapore was a trading city dominated by Chinese, who controlled business. They thought that this would undermine their role and opposed such affirmative policies. The disagreements resulted in racial riots and Singapore separated from Malaysia to become independent country. Business community in Singapore had triumphed.

Consider similar period in Mumbai. Late 50s! Mumbai was a port, whose business was dominated by Gujaratis, Parsis, Marwaris. When Maharastra state was formed, there was lot of debate over Mumbai's inclusion in Maharastra. Business communities were in favour of keeping it as a separate state (not country like Singapore though). There were agitations by Marathi people for its inclusion in Maharashtra. And finally it was made capital of Maharashtra.

Two cities, similar issues, different outcomes. Singapore separated, while Mumbai remained part of Maharashtra!

What would have happened if the outcomes had been different, is matter of 'ifs and buts'. But state of two cities is here to see for every, though the growth of city is also dependent on other factors like political leadership, businesses in city. So I am not drawing any conclusions. Just highlighting the fact that, business communities have their own motives and they have strong influence on shaping futures of cities, even countries.

Few critical decisions decide the future path of cities and this could have been one of them!

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