Spot the difference? This is not what South Mumbai wants.

March 30, 2014 11:44 pm


MNS-Sena-Aap Violenence

South Mumbai, the business headquarters of the country epitomizes enterprise, efficiency and smooth functioning. Hundreds of thousands of people chase their dreams in this city. Be it the vada pav vendor in Churchgate station or the electronics store in Heera Panna or the mill worker in Parel or the bank teller in Nariman point or the college student in Chowpatty. And it is this small contribution of millions of them that add up to the overall economy of the country. The three parties – Shiv Sena, MNS and AAP contesting the Lok Sabha elections from South Mumbai embrace protests as their primary governance trait. Can South Mumbai afford such violent protests that disrupt the economic engine of the country?


Moral Policing

Unilaterally deciding that Valentine’s Day celebrations are immoral, abusing power to order illegal midnight raids on women or using linguistic differences as an alibi for attacks do not represent what South Mumbai stands for. We are law abiding citizens and have respect for the greater law of the land. We, South Mumbaikars are proud of our BoriBunder masjid, the Basilica at Kemp’s corner or the Babulnath temple. We are proud of our Marathi speaking Sewri residents, Urdu speaking Byculla residents, Gujarati speaking Malabar Hill residents or English speaking Cuffe Parade residents. We are proud that South Mumbai men, women and youth can let loose after a hard day, enjoy themselves until wee hours in the morning and get a taxi ride back home by themselves. All these three political parties aspiring to represent South Mumbai in Parliament play moral cops, resorting to any lengths to impose their judgments on the common man. Will we tolerate someone else telling us what is right or wrong based on their beliefs? Do we not cherish our moral, political, economic, religious and social freedom?



Sitting in a dharna as the Chief Minister with police security of 4000 policemen, protesting against immigrants or indulging in raasta roko are escapist attitudes of leaders of these three political parties that South Mumbai can ill afford. Contrary to what some of them may want us to believe, we are not a banana republic (Delhi perhaps came close to being one during the 49 day misrule). We need solutions, not mere protests about problems. It was such behaviour that stalled Parliament and derailed policy making in the 15th Lok Sabha. Does South Mumbai want to perpetuate this in the 16th Lok Sabha too?

Issues of South Mumbai from telecom tower radiation to errant builders to financial market deregulation to big infrastructure projects like Trans Harbour link to urban women safety to jobs for youth through National Skills Development Council to slum rehabilitation to cluster development are some of the most diverse and complex of any constituency in the country. It calls for mature, responsible and consensus oriented representation in Parliament. Mere protests, moral policing and dharnas are not going to bring solutions to South Mumbai issues.

AAP failed badly in governance, says Congress MP Milind Deora

March 3, 2014 5:55 pm

March 3, 2014 at 5:55 PM

Two-time MP from the high-profile Mumbai South Lok Sabha constituency and Minister of State for Shipping and Telecommunications Milind Deora is gearing up for his toughest election yet, with his party facing a double anti-incumbency in Maharashtra.

In this interview to Firstpost, the 37-year-old talks about the recent spectrum auction, the disappointment of the short-lived AAP government in Delhi and the mobocracy the country is turning into.


With its extension of deadline for regularising slums, the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra is again playing politics instead of finding a sustainable answer to Mumbai’s housing crisis.

Personally, I believe that extending deadlines and cutoff dates is not the way to find a long-term solution to Mumbai’s housing problems. I personally believe that there is no better solution than freeing up large tracts of land – this will increase supply of land, bring down cost of land, make housing affordable. So the long-term solution for Mumbai is connecting it to the hinterland.

Until there is political will for this, until it becomes an important political issue, there is no other long-term solution. When land prices come down, that on its own will make even promises politicians make to slumdwellers, to safai kaamgars, to policemen, to chawl tenants a much more realistic promise.

It is indeed unfortunate that for the third election in a row, I am seeing that we are debating the same issues and are not talking about how to increase supply of land and create affordable housing.


You’ve spoken out against the policy paralysis in Mumbai. Why do Delhi and Bangalore not suffer from policy paralysis?

I think there was a time when things were moving slow. But I too have changed my perception about that. Infrastructure projects that I thought were getting delayed have become a reality such as the eastern freeway connecting P D’Mello Road to Chembur and the monorail.

Certainly, there is scope for improvement of delivery. Nobody is giving a pat on the back for delays. There should be limited timeframes, contractors and public-private concessionaires should be pulled up, penalised for inordinate delays.

To the credit of the chief minister, he has been able to shed a lot of cynicism about slow pace of work, including my own cynicism.

There is scope for improvement. The Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, for example, has been languishing for decades, and is a very, very important project.


Had the MTHL been in Delhi, it would have been built by now.

You can’t deny that coalition governments do mean you have to consult with more stakeholders, that automatically means a little more delay in decisions.

Secondly, Delhi has the NCR region that has three states competing for a slice of it – Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi. This gives a fillip and boost to NCR in terms of infrastructure.


So does Mumbai need that kind of structure?

I believe that Mumbai is an integral part of Maharashtra, culturally and socially, and that’s good for the city and for the state. But we can experiment with certain ideas that can give Mumbai a little more freedom in terms of governance. I see no reason why we can’t have more devolution of power, I see no reason why we can’t have a directly elected mayor in Mumbai who will have more power and more accountability.

Eventually, as time progresses, as the seat of the mayor grows in power and importance, that position may demand and get more powers from the state, leading to more devolution of power. In five or ten years you might even have a mayor who controls the police, the housing issues of Mumbai, apart from civic issues. Such a mayor would be a brand in himself. That’s a powerful structure.

We need to create political consensus on that.


There is talk of Ashok Chavan getting a ticket to contest LS elections from Nanded. Has the Congress got itself twisted around the Adarsh scam hopelessly and will find it a huge embarrassment during the polls in Maharashtra? Do you support Chavan’s candidature?

There are two kinds of allegations. There are frivolous and slanderous allegations that anyone can make, and allegations that go through court, through due process. But unfortunately in every issue we have knee jerk reactions to things. People don’t understand the difference between an allegation and an investigation and a conviction. People see an allegation as proof of guilt, and you tend to build a kind of mob mentality.

About Adarsh, should the investigation be completed, should facts be put out before the public? Sure, of course. Should Chavan be given a ticket? That’s for the party to decide about what kind of perception it’s going to have. Good or bad. I opposed the ordinance that would have allowed convicted legislators to be members of Parliament. I was very clear — that was for somebody who is convicted, you can take an objective view there. With an allegation or an investigation you have to be careful in determining whether that person should get a ticket, should be a member of an Assembly or not, that’s something the leaders of the party will have to decide.

But we have to have nuanced debate about these things. At one level we have moved towards very mature phases with RTI, social media, electronic media. At another level we are also moving to a mobocracy where I just pronounce people guilty very easily. We can’t get into a system where slanderous allegations are made about politicians, journalists, businessmen, judges and others with no recourse available to that person, and with public impression being that they are guilty.

Opinion cycles are now 140 characters: Somebody will say this is paid media, corrupt politician. This will eventually harm the public discourse in our country. If balanced public opinion goes out of the window, a lot of good professionals, whether political leaders or journalists or any other professionals, will not be excited about these professions and you might attract a lot of riff-raff to these professions who are either very thick skinned or they come from a school of thought where they believe it is good to hurl allegations, good not to be balanced. Both of these are dangerous.


Are you saying the allegations of corruption are baseless, that there has actually been no wrong done whatsoever?

No. In the 2G case for example, where I am minister in the telecom department, I feel if Mr Raja is guilty of a crime he is accused of, if courts find them guilty, I will be the first to applaud and welcome the verdict. Why do I have to defend him, whether he is from my party or from an ally’s party or from the Opposition?

But as a minister in the telecom department, I am concerned about how quickly and with no debate we moved from a regime that we inherited from the NDA which in their wisdom, in Mr Vajpayee’s wisdom, they felt would encourage tele-density in the country. To be fair to him, he was right.

In 2003 when the first come first served policy came out, to now a decade later, look how things changed. There were 7 crore people who had telephone connections in 2003 and now there are 90 crore people who have telephone connections. So Mr Vajpayee and his government must have decided not to auction spectrum with some idea in mind.

Now, I am worried that instantaneously and without any debate, that gets thrown out of the window and you’re told by the court that you have to auction spectrum. Is that the right decision? The auction is now complete and all the operators who were interviewed last week said they believe they have paid a lot for spectrum, there is a strain on the banking system, and they have all said they will have to pass this cost on to the consumer.

Now is that going to encourage or reduce tele-density? Is it going to mean that those from less affluent sections will think twice before purchasing a mobile phone? Possibly.

The way the Opposition behaved on 2G was also irresponsible. They made it seem as if it was our policy, not theirs, to score political points.


How serious is the Aam Aadmi Party factor in the coming Lok Sabha elections?

I don’t take any party lightly. About 30 candidates contest against me every election and I take each one very seriously, studying their background, community, what work they have been doing, etc.

What AAP did well was that they galvanised a very exciting political movement. I think when they became a political party, they had to have some kind of political accountability, and more so when they came into government. I think they failed very badly in governing.

As they moved from a movement to a party in government, that exposed their abilities. How effective you are administratively, how effectively you can control the system, how effectively you know how to fight the system, how to make it work to achieve your commitments — that is governance

I was one of the few people in Congress who didn’t mind the party supporting the AAP government in Delhi. I felt they needed time. I was very disappointed personally when he quit. He ran off after 49 days and said he can’t deal with this any more. I thought he was someone who would find interesting ways to counter political challenges, to work around them to do the things he needs to do. I didn’t like it that he quit. I got flak from my party for having said let’s give him time.


The last few sessions of Parliament have seen more disruptions than debate. Is being a Parliamentarian still exciting for the younger lot of MPs?

Not last two sessions, my two terms, ten years, have been very disappointing. I remember going to Parliament before I got into politics, and though there were disruptions, the House still functioned. When I became an MP, from the very first day, I can remember clearly, there were disruptions. I remember when I initiated the debate on the historic RTI bill, I spoke to empty benches. There was not one member of the Opposition in the House. Initially I was very cynical but I believe it is the only form of democracy that works. I still believe that Parliament has huge relevance in India.

Another point I want to make here is that MPs’ behaviour in Parliament should become an election issue. We cannot have this situation where disrupting Parliament is something an MP can be proud of when he goes back to the voter. The electorate should vote out those who disrupt Parliament.


1959503_478054628986812_372777187_a Milind Deora – AAP failed badly in governance

MD sign_medium

Reference link:


February 10, 2014 5:39 pm

Few weeks ago, the front page of this newspaper carried a story with the headline — ‘What has he done for Bengaluru?’ This outburst was attributed to a prominent Bangalorebased, civic conscious, corporate professional reacting to news of his former colleague’s plans to contest elections to the Lok Sabha. The MP aspirant then earnestly started meeting residents of Bangalore and solicited suggestions. “Broaden footpaths, increase police staff strength, keep pubs open until 4 am, need a flag down taxi system, better roads, garbage recycling” etc were few among the hundreds of suggestions that poured in on twitter as “ideas for the city” in response to this aspirant’s request. Presumably, the educated elite of Bangalore harbours hopes that this individual if elected as their MP would be able to make all these wishes turn real. An anecdotal survey of people in the five biggest cities in India reveals similar expectations of an MP. Can an MP really change living conditions and civic infrastructure in the constituency he/she represents? No. The MP cannot and is not expected to, as per the framework of our democratic structure. So, who can? What does an MP do then? Let’s start with busting some misconceptions.  

Myth 1: It is a hierarchical system — MP is the most powerful elected representative of a voter.

An Indian citizen directly casts his vote for 3-4 different offices — MP, MLA, Corporator and in some cities, the Mayor. The most common misconception is that these offices are structured hierarchically, almost like a corporate reporting structure. The MP, MLA and corporator are all independently elected officers with no reporting structure. Hence, one is not more “powerful” than the other, they merely have different roles to perform. While it is true that a larger number of people elect the MP vs the MLA vs the Corporator, that does not imply a power structure among them. They are all equal in their powers to execute their responsibilities and no one reports to the other.

Myth 2: The government is a nebulous entity and everyone in government is responsible for everything.

We often tend to think of government as one all-encompassing entity, which may be true for political scientists in their research but not in real life. It is important to understand the different arms and responsibilities of the government. The recent unfortunate incidents of rape can be used as an example to highlight the differences in responsibilities among the various elected offices. Lack of adequate street lighting (say) as a cause for the crime is the failure of the local corporator for that area and deserves to be questioned for it. The lack of adequate police security for citizens is the role of the state and the MLA needs to be questioned for it. And the lack of respect for women in our society and potentially high unemployment which can exacerbate such crimes is the responsibility of the Centre and we have the right to question our MP over it. But protesting against the ‘government’ and holding every government official responsible for it is an inefficient form of protest and leads to muddling of behavioural outcomes.

Myth 3: My MP is my one-stop shop for all problems.

Few years ago, in Mumbai, one housing society, home to educated and rich people, was vexed with their MP for not being able to help rid their sea-facing garden of monkeys! Not to belittle monkey menace but this notion that an MP is a one-stop shop for all problems is a pervasive notion but a false one. While the concept of a one contact point for all problems may be a sound one, our current framework does not allow for one and the MP, MLA and corporator each have different roles.

What exactly are the defined roles of an MP, MLA and a Corporator?

Shocking as it may sound, none. And therein lies the problem — there is no defined ‘job description’ for an MP, MLA, or a Corporator. Broadly, the MP represents his/her voters’ interests to legislate affairs in Parliament. The MLA does the same in the state and the Corporator in the municipal corporation. Hence, it may be easier to draw boundaries of their job responsibilities based on the roles of Parliament, state legislatures and municipal corporations. Civic issues such as roads, bridges, water, waste management, town planning etc are all in the domain of the municipal corporation and, hence, the corporator is answerable. The MLA is answerable for state subjects such as police, law & order, education, labour, land laws etc. The MP’s role is to represent his/her’s constituency’s interests in Parliament to ensure laws are made accommodating for every section of our society.


MD sign_medium

Reference Link:

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

November 8, 2010 6:05 pm

Nov 8, 2010

As we dawn on a new year, there is much to look forward to but little does it mean we can remove and absolve ourselves from all that went down in the past year. Rather the year 2008 in many ways suggests a prequel to the hard times we need to brace ourselves for in 2009. The New Year was dignified with little cheer and celebration and rightfully so. From the economic meltdown to the predominance of terror attacks, an emotion of grief was felt across the masses. We should make a resolution as a nation this New Year; it should be one of solidarity and strength. India shall persevere and overcome these unrelenting forces and acknowledge its history of stoic confrontation. Referencing the approach of the Sixties and Gandhi’s revolutionary struggle would assist us in facilitating a much needed change. As Dylan rightfully said back in the Sixties, ‘The Times They Are A-Changing.’ That sort of consciousness lends a coherent and collective voice to the masses and impels that change. The election of Barack Obama heralds that change in the United States and so should we look upon new beginnings. This being only possible if we as a nation agree upon inviting change and taking chances.

This year has seen a spew of tragedies credited to terrorism with brief respite coming our way. The terrorists, as is second nature to them, have been ruthless in their pursuit and there is no denying that they have managed to send a shudder down the spine of a country that intrinsically harbours peace. And this time the rest of the world could not excuse itself of the implications; this came as a slap on the face for not only India but the entire civilised world. Indians felt helpless and violated which spawned a crippling anger, which was channelled the wrong way. The anger seems to have gotten the better of the youth – rather than fuelling the existing system, it spread like wild fire taking with it any shreds of rationality. There was not one collective voice but myriad different voices, sensitised by the same concern but streaming different approaches. Yes I admit, we have overlooked loopholes within our security and intelligence. We need to buckle up and address a lot of issues, but blame games are only going to handicap the possibility of coming up with any cohesive solution. I am not suggesting that the youth be pacifist. What I ask of them is to be realistic. They need to demand accountability of the establishment and in doing so pressurise the government to be more proactive. But at the same time they must leave the solutions to the experts. For any of us to think that we have the solutions to these problems, is to me, being naïve and arrogant. The youth should harness their positive energy and be collaborative over being confrontational. Also with the economy taking a hit and unemployment looming large, the ugly truth of corporations is slowly coming to light. The sham that was Satyam was effaced after eight long years; it reminds us of how we badly need a reality check and also need to reassess the notion of India Shining. In all of this, we must resolve not to be cheated again, to be alert, to demand accountability of corporations and the government.

We need to rewind to all those ideals and principles that saw us through troubled times in the past. Gandhi was pushed to awry extremes yet he never buckled down allowing anger to get the better of him. We need that sense of resolute determination and focus. You can’t shut out and wish away the system, that’s one of the mistakes we might make. Don’t reject, distance and delink yourself from the system. Once you do that you become an outsider, and there is nothing within your power to be able to manifest the change you wish upon. I think the most important and fundamental step to take is embrace the system and work the change within it. We might rage against the machine, but what if the machine completely breaks down. We must understand our role in the whole dynamic of a representative democracy. I think all that has occurred in the past year and lingers through in 2009, only beseeches us to wake up and smell the coffee.

MD sign_medium

Reference link:

Salute to the city’s indomitable will

November 28, 2009 12:33 pm

Nov 28, 2009

In many ways 26/11 became a metaphor for the cumulative injustices inflicted on a city and a people no longer willing to stand by in stoic silence.

Penning a tribute to the city I grew up in and love is a task I approach with some trepidation in a post-26/11 world. Not because I doubt Mumbai’s resilience but because I fear it has been taken for granted.

In many ways 26/11 became a metaphor for the cumulative injustices inflicted on a city and a people no longer willing to stand by in stoic silence. But despite that palpable anger, we summoned our better angels in a time of tragedy to emerge stronger and more determined to fight for what we believe in. And that is our great strength — a strength that comes, as Mahatma Gandhi said, not from physical capacity but from an indomitable will.

If it is through terrorism that the people who carry out these despicable acts express their values, it is right at this moment that we must demonstrate ours. Mumbai could easily have imploded in the aftermath, but in its collective wisdom it transcended caste and creed to unify around a common purpose instead of resorting to divisive recrimination.

The innumerable acts of selfless courage and kindness, the stories of unsung heroes risking life and limb to save the lives of strangers, and the extraordinary protest rallies of young students speaking the truth to power on the streets of Mumbai — all exemplify the spirit of a city that came to the fore in its darkest hour.

My mandate as your elected representative is clear. I will continue to help shape political discourse and policy so that something constructive emerges from the rubble of 26/11. Combating terrorism is a complex global problem and I won’t pretend the solutions are easy or even well understood. But for now, as we withdraw into a moment of quiet reflection one year on, let us remember those that are no longer with us and be grateful for that indomitable will and resolve of ordinary Mumbaikars today that inspire us all to build a better tomorrow.(


MD sign_medium

Reference Link:

Reference link:

Keeping Woodstock alive

September 26, 2009 6:04 pm

Sep 26, 2009

Forty years on Woodstock still manages to stir us up and allows us to fervently approach the thought of peace on earth as something that could be our reality. The relevance of its essence is timeless. So much has been said about this festival and perhaps will be repeated time and again with every generation that’s exposed to the idea of those three days when fantastical ideals were realised, an enviable evocation of near utopia. The festival set the benchmark not as just an arts exposition but the nurturing of a collective consciousness which voices concern for anything that threatens mankind’s underlying spirit of harmony.

Though Woodstock is remembered through various perceptions, from a hippie fiesta to a drug binge, a peace congregation to a rock & roll festival, none could ignore its overriding sentiment and ideology. It’s true that the festival was one of its kinds and is best not replicated – we have seen the disaster that came of the Woodstock attempted in the Nineties. In replicating an emblematic festival as Woodstock, one must realise that one can’t possibly replicate a cause, a feeling, or the influences of a different generation altogether. Issues change, responses change and pop culture constantly undergoes surgery, and this is where adaptation is key. And I see how Woodstock’s virtues have been emulated through the decades, more in its principle.

The Vietnam war was the concern of that generation, while today global warming is an issue. One of today’s best music festivals, Bonnaroo, is oft called Greenaroo. It champions the green revolution from the organic food vendors from Vermont to the Go Green campaigning, and the audience is subconsciously supporting a cause relevant to its time. Even in 2008, with musicians stepping up and defacing Bush in concert, that’s where one sees a streak of Woodstock. Then it was the war in Vietnam, this time the concern was the war in Iraq. A great example to take from, would be that of Martin Luther King, Jr. When King led the Civil Rights movement in the States he applied Gandhi’s teachings to the challenges that lay before his country. Gandhi’s Quit India, Non-Cooperative, civil disobedient movement was a prototype for King, where King’s ‘We Shall Overcome’ translated to Gandhi’s ‘Hum Honge Kamyaab.’

Today it’s not each country to her own. We are facing common problems from global warming to the economic meltdown, terrorism to healthcare. The Woodstock consciousness allows us to address these issues by leaving our differences behind us. Such a rooted ideology allows us to dissolve boundaries and approach our issues constructively and collectively. It purports the idea of harmony. We are no more strangers when we are affected by the same issues, and in times like these we need to come together and forget the petty differences we build up. Such festivals have the power to send normal people back with joy and allow them to understand that they have a larger role to play in life. The true essence of Woodstock remains in spreading a social and spiritual consciousness amongst people while reminding them of the ultimate strength of mankind in peace and understanding. So let’s not look to another Woodstock but simply look to imbibe its ideals and apply them appropriately to the need of the hour.


MD sign_medium

Reference link:

A Lasting Impression

August 25, 2009 6:02 pm

Aug 25, 2009

This summer I had my concert itinerary in place, starting with the Eric Clapton and Arch Angels concert at the Royal Albert Hall, onto to the Wanee Music Festival in Florida, and ending with Bonnaroo. It was my first time at Wanee, and the festival – tailormade for a blues and guitar fanatic like me – made for some of the best live experiences I’ve had till day. Not to mention I was spoilt with backstage access making acquaintances with the likes of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. A happy camper, having more than satiated my appetite, I almost considered skipping Bonnaroo this year. Besides I had attended the Bonnaroo music festival last year, and as Wanee had blown me off my feet I feared the Bonnaroo experience would fall pale against it. But as was destined, I did not act upon my instincts and stuck to the itinerary. And I am only glad for not having let this one pass, realising eventually that sometimes first impressions are actually not the last.

Last year I was camping out at the site, though this year I chose to stay at a nearby hotel. But at the festival, It was déjà vu of sorts as everything was set up almost exactly the same way as last year, from the stages to people’s lodgings it was endearing as it felt like coming back to something familiar. More aware of my surroundings I manoeuvred through the vast expanse celebrating art, with much more ease. Also surprisingly, I did not expect such a huge turn out, I was anticipating a smaller turn out owing to the recession; Fortune magazine has the logistics – a fifteen per cent increase in the audience this year at Bonnaroo. So I guess music is definitively a very defensive sector in times like these.

This years crowd pullers on the line up were undoubtedly Bruce Springsteen and Phish. Though the Springsteen experience didn’t resound for me, playing most of his new numbers there was this sense of dispassion that drained his performance. Perhaps it was the whole Phish craze that dominated the audiences, also considering Phish was to perform twice, Springsteen perhaps didn’t feel on top of things and the dynamics between the audience and him didn’t spark that magic Whatever it was the Boss seemed to be taking a break from being the show stealer. Though recalling memorables from this year’s edition I have to hand it to New Orleans based blues musician Allan Toussaint and his troupe, whom I had the pleasure of meeting backstage afterwards. Though this years show stoppers were the Beastie Boys who slammed the most addictive groove at Bonnaroo, and had fans and non fans hooked all alike, they actually got this party started. Surprisingly, even Snoop Dogg and Erika Badu figured in my list of stellar performances. And amongst new favourites and discoveries I have to make mention of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Mars Volta. Potter charmed me instantly with her blues distinction and her raspy vocals, and this one is sincerely a recommendation to all those blues fans looking for something refreshing within a contemporary mould. Having the good fortune of hanging backstage, we caught glimpses and brushed against the who’s who at the festival, for instance meeting this guitarist form the acclaimed Moe and Peter Buck from R.E.M just casually passing us by, the air was crackling with celebrity. I also caught up with an old friend, Corren Capshaw, manager of bands like the Dave Matthews Band and Phish, also a co-owner of the festival, Though the highlight for me was when Warren Haynes performed his version of Radiohead’s ‘Creep.’ This second impression hit me harder than the first. If I make it for the next edition, Bonnaroo would be like that compulsory visit home every year for me.


MD sign_medium

Reference link:

The Clapton Blues

July 21, 2009 5:57 pm

Jul 21, 2009

For a regular reader of my column, I don’t have to blatantly profess my love for Eric Clapton. So often do I reference the prolific songwriter/guitarist in my columns that he unwittingly assumes the role of an archetype within music for me. Having followed and still following Clapton’s career religiously, this pursuit has acquired the nature of a one-sided commitment wherein a few compromises are made from my end. I have been critical from my humble standing as a listener and audience member since college when I first saw Clapton perform live. After having caught him on tour just last year (what was rumoured to be his last), catching him perform live at London last month might be perceived as a bit of an indulgence to some but for me it goes deeper than that. It’s my keen appreciation of an artist whom I believe to be one of the most relevant figures in music today, who will unequivocally go down in its history as legend.

A day before I headed for the concert, I visited my friend Jamie Wood. Jamie went on a delightful nostalgia trip studded with notorious incidents involving his dad Ron Wood and the labelled crazy, Keith Richards. The next day at the Royal Albert Hall, the Arc Angels, Doyle Bramhall II’s band was to open for Clapton. Though I have watched Bramhall play with Clapton before, I had never witnessed the Arc Angels in concert. I have heard them on record and watched concert DVDs, but the experience watching them live left an indelible first impression. The half-hour set with the proficient line up of Bramhall, frontman Charlie Sexton, and drummer Chris Layton (drummer of Double Trouble) had me enraptured with its tightly-knit spin on incredible originals.

Next, Clapton took to stage for his two-hour set. I must admit, I had walked in that day keeping many expectations from the musician, and that could have been one of the reasons why I walked out a discontented fan. He doled out more of his commercially viable and popular numbers like ‘Wonderful Tonight’ and ‘Cocaine.’ Then a snatch of the blues with tracks like ‘Little Queen of Spades’ followed by an acoustic set wherein he played an old country song of his, ‘Three Little Birds.’ It was a fine mix one might say, but that set simply averaged out for me. Perhaps that’s just my personal bias speaking, as I would have preferred him to play more of the blues and emphasise on his days with Cream, and Derek and the Dominos. This vaguely followed through from my last experience at his concert, even then he seemed to be fading out, and this time he cast a very dry spell. There were several points in the show where I caught myself yawning, and it bothered me. A man of his calibre and repute is not one to be berated in any circumstance, but as a fan I can’t help but look for reasons as my hero loses out to my weighty expectations. Seeing Clapton live is still an enthralling experience, but it is slowly discounting itself with time as he is ageing. I think a sense of inertia is taking over him and his will to do this anymore is waning. After all the immense respect and adulation he has earned, he needn’t be as bothered with pleasing fans at this point in his career. Though I have to mention, Clapton’s keyboard player – a Billy Preston reincarnate, the black musician wielded his organ like a miracle worker – was the real class act for me that night besides the Arc Angels. So all in all, I did take something back from this experience and perhaps also grew a bit in my understanding of my idol and his shortcomings today. Or perhaps I should put it this way: He has been living up to his side of the commitment long enough, it’s time I relented as a fan.


MD sign_medium

Reference link:

Erase and Rewind

July 21, 2009 5:56 pm

March 4, 2014 at 1:55am

So the past year and this one has seen a spew of releases from age-old artists whose back catalogue still rides stronger than any of their recent work, from U2 to Metallica, JJ Cale to Neil Young, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) to Bruce Springsteen, with the most recent being Bob Dylan’s Together Through Life. Listening to Dylan’s latest piece of work, a notion I have been harbouring for some time now was only reasserted. It seemed Dylan didn’t write this one for the masses or for any validation from the critics – he is writing for himself now. The cynic in him is breathing his last and little does he care about changing the world or enlightening us with his opinion on world affairs. Sonically, too, he reverts to old school blues. I could sense a bit of the Chess Records, a flash of Buddy Guy and of course his all-time hero Woody Guthrie. He blatantly reverts to his true heroes from the Fifties and Sixties with little regard for today’s trends in music. As much as some might reason this as being a creative roadblock or his coming full circle or these old musicians just being lost and unable to latch on to the current trends, in my understanding these records have a much greater role to play which might get shrouded by the whole rant of evolution and originality on sound.

For artists of such great stature who have proven themselves over and over again in every which way – an Eric Clapton to a Dylan have scored high on all counts from versatility to originality to evolution to being open to experimentation, but at the same time these artists have not forgotten to acknowledge their inspirations, the men who essentially introduced them to music, their true teachers. Me and Mr Johnson, a tribute album to Robert Johnson by Clapton was one such album, and we all know with Clapton, these tributes come easy for him. In doing so these artists are playing their role as musicians to the fullest. Being original is one thing but sharing good music is another thing. These greats have introduced me to artists, who if not for them, would have never been known to me. Clapton of course took me on the blues trail dating back to the Thirties, Dylan beat the drum for Guthrie and the Stones championed Chuck Berry. At the fag end of his career an artist like Elvis who was contemporary and invented rock & roll in his heyday, reverted to gospel and balladry akin to Hank Williams. Even artists like Guns N’ Roses whose 1993 album “The Spaghetti Incident?” was rife with punk covers introduced me to punk – it was my love for the band that made me dig deeper and understand their inspirations. U2 which was essentially a punk act in their earlier days teamed up with Green Day to do their rendition of ‘The Saints Are Coming’ which is actually by the Skids.

I also feel that sometimes as a musician, although you want to play new music, sometimes you really need to go back and play the stuff that inspires you the most no matter how old it might be. It just wipes the canvas clean and clears the clutter; it’s like pressing a refresh button. These guys are unwittingly introducing the new generation to emblematic music they might never know of otherwise. After all they achieve and the long journey that lands them in a completely different destination form where they began, it’s time to retrospect. It’s time for the artist to revisit his inspirations and beginnings and reassess his whole journey from the start.’


MD sign_medium



Reference link:

Too many cooks run city

December 30, 2005 6:08 pm

March 5, 2014 at 2:52am

India’s urbanisation rate is nearly four times greater than the rest of the world. This phenomenon has led to widespread urban decay. Where do we go from here? And what are the prospects?

Mumbai, India’s financial capital has been a victim of this trend. The rural economy’s slow growth — upon which two-thirds of India depends — has catalysed influx into Mumbai from several states. This has resulted in a massive strain on the city’s urban infrastructure, especially housing.

Archaic laws preventing large scale public housing, a slow Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and police force, short sightedness on the part of certain citizen groups and, most importantly, a lack of political will, have led to the proliferation of slums.

Additionally, unprecedented construction activity in the absence of basic civic amenities and a crumbling transportation network, are only adding to the problem.

Mumbai always holds a special place in my heart. I am not against the pace of commercial construction in Mumbai provided that the corresponding infrastructure is in place. Infrastructure must precede development.

Mumbai should no longer be allowed to develop in an ad-hoc fashion. If any building is without water, no new permissions should be issued. What’s unfortunate is that the Building Proposal department of the BMC doesn’t even coordinate a building proposal with the hydraulic department, which is responsible for providing water to residents of the structure.

I strongly believe that development charges for commercial development are ridiculously low. This charge should be increased and the state government and BMC should utilise the proceeds exclusively for basic infrastructure development.

In a nutshell, Mumbai’s development process requires political will on the part of the Maharashtra Urban Development department as well as major municipal reforms.

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM), unveiled by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this month, proposes to do just this. In the mid-’80s, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi realised the importance of controlling urbanisation, and constituted the Urbanisation Commission, led by Charles Correa. Barring Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, few prime ministers have understood the causes and effects of urbanisation in India .

Mumbai’s problem is that too many agencies run it, leading to a duplication of work and a lack of coordination. This unsynchronized effort results in incessant squabbling between departments. The BMC blaming MMRDA for potholes, MHADA blaming BMC for tenants residing in old and dilapidated buildings are seasonal shows for Mumbai’s readers. It’s the classic case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.

Devolution and reorganisation of powers is therefore critical for Mumbai’s sustainable development. As a first step, Mumbai should have a directly elected mayor. This will lead to accountability and ensure cooperation amongst agencies. After all, Mumbai’s Mayor is one of 227 Municipal Councillors. How can we expect him to have a holistic vision for the city?

Also, when cities like Indore and Chennai elect their mayors directly, why can’t we? The NURM should demand this crucial reform before it grants any monies towards Mumbai. It would be a shame if the world’s largest democracy is unable to make one of Asia’s largest civic bodies — the BMC — truly representative of every Mumbaikar’s aspirations.

We all have a role to play in making this city a better place to live in. India’s private sector, headquartered in Mumbai, must realise that they belong to the city. Barring a few individuals, Mumbai’s floods failed to establish the corporate leadership witnessed by America during 9/11 or the floods in New Orleans and Katrina.

This segment remained largely indifferent and rather pleased by the fact that South Mumbai was unaffected, while other parts of the city struggled to stay afloat.

Empowerment is more than a choice — it’s a right. Every Mumbaikar must put away his/her differences and come together to rebuild this great city. That is my wish for 2006.


MD sign_medium

Looking for a new home? Well, all the very best to you

September 13, 2005 8:03 am

March 5, 2014 at 2:52am

Mumbai has thousands of old and dilapidated residential buildings stretching from the south to the northern suburbs. In the wake of the recent incidents of building collapses which took many lives, the safety of these constructions assumes utmost importance.

Mumbai’s chawls primarily constitute of these dilapidated structures. These chawls were built in a pre-Independence era, and house Mumbai’s original inhabitants. As a result of the Rent Control Act, tenants here pay rent at 1940 levels. Since this amount is negligible by today’s standards, landlords cite this as the major reason for their inability to repair and maintain these buildings. As a result of this tussle between landlords and tenants, and to ensure that buildings are repaired, the Maharashtra government established the Mumbai Repair and Reconstruction Board.

The tenants pay a repair cess to the Board which is collected by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), but the amount levied is inadequate and the Repair Board is left to carry out work with meagre funds. Another solution was to have the buildings reconstructed by Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA) or a private developer, both of which could avail of extra FSI to re-house affected tenants and make the project commercially viable.

The common practice is that once the tenants of dilapidated buildings are shifted to transit accommodations, their building is demolished and reconstructed. Often things don’t happen as smoothly as planned. The BMC at times prevents a building from being reconstructed for reasons like road widening, narrowness of the plot size etc. This results in affected tenants living in transit camps for decades. While there is a demand that the BMC should liberalise these permissions in order to facilitate redevelopment, an opposing view is that this puts a strain on infrastructure, which deprives neighbouring chawls of water and other basic civic needs. This is clearly visible in Girgaum and Thakurdwar.

In view of this, we should welcome the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Shirish Patel and Cyrus Guzder. It has led to the formation of a committee of engineers whose job is to decide whether a building is dilapidated, before MHADA hands it over to a developer for reconstruction. Politicians opposing the PIL are either uninformed or likely to be builders themselves. After all, we must keep in mind that all dilapidated buildings are cessed but not all cessed buildings are dilapidated.

Without a doubt, the problem of old and dilapidated buildings in Mumbai is a complex one that involves tenants, landlords, the BMC, Maharashtra government and the judiciary. In my opinion, there are a few solutions to this problem. The Maharashtra government should file an application in the Supreme Court demanding that the case for ownership be expedited. Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh is aware of this and doing all the state government can to resolve the matter. This is the only long-term solution as it will make tenants owners of their apartments and buildings through housing societies, thereby leaving the onus for repairs and maintenance on the society and not on the landlord or the MHADA.

Another thing that could be done is to ensure better quality at transit camps and the creation of more camps on erstwhile mill lands that are coming into the market. This is important as people who are affected in south of Mahim don’t want to be shifted to a transit camp in the suburbs and vice-versa. Land in the heart of the city will therefore be useful if MHADA receives a larger share than it is currently estimated to get. It should also be ensured that private developers take up projects in areas like Khetwadi, Umerkhadi, Mazagaon and Parel, instead of only in Walkeshwar, Bandra and the like.

For any activity to be effective, proper coordination between the agencies involved is a must. Similarly, better coordination between the BMC and MHADA will allow both agencies to identify, evacuate and repair or reconstruct dilapidated structures in a timely manner. Although this is part of my view on major structural reforms needed in Mumbai city, in this case, a coordination committee could be established to undertake this responsibility.

We also need to ensure adequate funding for the Repair Boards. Both central and state governments should actively involve themselves to generate the needed fund flow. I have been raising the matter in parliament for the last one year and the newly created National Urban Renewal Mission is expected to help in this regard. Also, crores of rupees are owed to MHADA by BMC which should be released immediately.

Lastly, repair work should be carried out by MHADA in conjunction with established engineering companies that can better execute in terms of cost, quality and time.

Though none of these problems can be wished away overnight, it is by only by the concerted effort of all – agencies, builders and the public – that this vexed issue can be solved. We must take note that what is involved is not just structures, but human lives as well.


MD sign_medium

Reference link:


This is Milind’s in-depth public forum. If facebook and twitter connect him constantly with the public, this blog is where he can air his views with more depth. In any case, the goal is the same: the generate solutions not just for, but with input from, the people he represents.