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A wake up call for Mumbai | HT Editorial – Editorials


India’s financial capital Mumbai now has more than 30,000 cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19); More than 1,000 people have died from the infection. On May 24 and 25, the city reported the second highest number of cases among cities anywhere in the world, just after Moscow. One in five cases in India dates back to the city, while one in four who has died nationally has been a resident of Mumbai. It has made Maharashtra the most severely affected state in the country, with cases exceeding 50,000 and increasing every day.

There are, of course, immediate triggers for the increase in cases. It must be recognized that Maharashtra has also evaluated more people than the national average. But the systemic weaknesses are clear: the delay in the detection of passengers in the first part of the year (which was not exclusive to Maharashtra but seems to have had a greater impact in terms of spread), the impossibility of using the blockade to improve health infrastructure, the lack of proper coordination that has resulted in patients having to run from one hospital to another in search of critical care services, and the large number of healthcare workers who have become infected.

But these are symptoms of a larger crisis. Mumbai is a symbol of flawed urbanization and poor planning in India. It has a high population density, with the lowest proportion of open spaces per 1,000 people. Slums occupy 7% of the city’s land area, but, according to the 2011 census, four out of 10 residents lived in slums, a proportion that may have grown. A corrupt link between political authorities, private companies and property developers has meant that precious public land, which could have been used for public housing, has been taken over by private operators. 60% of slum households do not have toilets and there is a substantial shortage of public toilets. But instead of eradicating misery, the city is proud of it, to the point of romanticizing it. The disparity in health systems is stark, with super specialized private hospitals coexisting with an abysmal public health system. While the overcrowded local train may be an iconic symbol of the city, it actually represents the weakness of public transportation systems. Despite having the richest local government body in the country, municipal governance is weak. All of this, the absence of adequate public housing, public health, public transportation, sanitation, has returned today to haunt the city. Mumbai must, for its sake and for the sake of India, use this crisis as a wake-up call.

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