Envisaging what makes Mumbai’s economic geography distinct from other urban spaces, while retaining the complexity embroiled in this theme, engages us on her people, inherent malleability of resources, shared penchant for the changes, and unabated organic growth. There is no surprise that more than one fifth of the state’s domestic product emanates from the city, positioning her as the pivotal node in India’s economic geography.
Quite important, while juxtaposing the saga of ever growing urban aspirations and urge to diversify the socio-economic sphere with the emerging patterns in other metropolises, unequivocally, Delhi appears to be an interesting case in point for the comparison with Mumbai. From the governance vantage, Mumbai is still a district subsumed in the state of Maharashtra, while Delhi is a state, being governed partly by the state government and partly by the Centre, although both spaces have respective local democratic governance systems. It is this distinction that is viewed more as a formal categorisation, more useful denominator that facilitates a useful comparison is to enmesh these spaces with global social-economic-cultural milieus, while identifying these spaces as organic global cities.
Interestingly, even while positioning these two ever-evolving agglomerations on the coordinates of the global city, they seem to be aligned with two divergent trajectories. While one is the story of endowments, the other is a story of not so advantaged. There appears to be a noticeable hiatus between socio-physical infrastructures of these paces. Although Mumbai is, presumably, the financial capital of India, it does not have a single central unity, while Delhi has four. Perhaps, this disparity is a kind of proxy that says the baseline of the story of Mumbai being not as advantaged as Delhi is. Similar comparisons may be done with respect to open spaces, sporting facilities, cultural spaces and institutions.
Although, when it comes to the social-physical infrastructure, Mumbai does not look as advantaged as Delhi, as the data point to, one fifth of customs and central excise duties in India originate from Mumbai, while share of Delhi is nearly half of that. Yet again this also seems to be the story of being more generative or not so generative. When we triangulate these scenarios, are we stumbling on a strange pattern of Mumbai being economically potent while not so advantaged in socio-physical infrastructure? If this pattern persists, it will not be unusual to witness the precarious existence of people while the extant capacities tend to degenerate.
These milieus of divergent trajectories of endowments and disadvantages raise a few poignant questions. Should sustained inclusive urban renewal be the shared denominators that safeguard the organic evolution of Mumbai? Should this be inculcated to every emerging urban agglomeration? Quite important, a creative socio-physical infrastructure entails to evolve in Mumbai that enjoys the safeguards from a participative and transparent governance system. If that goes well, Mumbai will evolve to a sustained creative space with innovative economic potencies.