(Aaditya Thackeray is the president of Yuva Sena, the youth wing of Shiv Sena)
Almost every documentary, every book describes Mumbai with this cliche - "The City that Never Sleeps." However, unlike any other city that fits this description, we do sleep. We are put to sleep by stone-age laws.
Our life is regimented by rules about time! And more than time, time limits. As soon as office hours end, we are stuck in rush hour traffic, and as that finishes, it's impossible to engage in any outdoor activities that one can think of. We don't have a time zone in our city to simply unwind, chill, step out and be ourselves.
Nearly two years ago, I proposed to the BMC or Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to allow Mumbai its breathing space, its nightlife, much glorified in times before us. Those were the times Mumbai lived fully- during the day, and even more during the night.
Thankfully, the then Mayor Sunil Prabhu (now a Shiv Sena MLA), and my friend and citizens' corporator Makrand Narvekar helped me propose and pass the idea quickly through the BMC and onto the State Government.
Finally, after doing all the rounds of various departments imaginable and possible, only recently did the police give the final nod to the proposal of Nightlife for Mumbai.
Well, the idea is simple... and yet to think of it, monumental for our city.
A walk around Mumbai will reaffirm your faith in people, their sense of being kind and helping, their ability to work hard and party hard. On the whole, Mumbai is a safe city for all, and this works on trust.
As per the original proposal all eateries, cafes, milk shops, chemists, theaters, gyms and spas should be given an option to stay up all night, mainly in non-residential areas.
Can one imagine Kala Ghoda, Nariman Point, Bandra Kurla Complex, and parts of Marine Drive and Carter Road coming alive at night? Well, most of these places are open till late hours anyway! Imagine walking into places like Kala Ghoda or BKC on a Saturday night when these areas are converted to pedestrian zones post-sunset, and the atmosphere is that of a big carnival. Jugglers, flame- throwers, food vans, live music (without speakers), open- air restaurants! This will be a major attraction not only for Mumbaikars, but also millions of tourists who tend to step out at night.
Adding to this, I have now proposed that the Malls (spread across the city and suburbs) and Mill-Malls (a phenomenon in Mumbai) should be declared as Special Entertainment Zones (SEZs) as they have the added advantages of being spread all over the city, with adequate parking and no immediate residents to be disturbed; they will be secure zones under constant watch. All establishments in these zones should be given the option of staying open all night. Areas in the vicinity of railway stations and highways need to have all-night food and tea stalls, as well as chemists and milk-vending shops.
This proposal is for all age groups, all economic zones- from those who want to chill at night, eat at some paani puri or rolls place or have coffee somewhere after a late night football game, to those who work late and can only afford a simple meal on their way home. Currently, only a few hotels have food service open all night, not all can afford.
Of course, all this comes with adequate riders for the commercial establishments:
a) Three employment shifts to avoid exploitation of labour and create jobs
b) Permitted in non-residential areas, unless the police and the residents allow them in a residential zone
c) Garbage segregation, noise control, behaviour and security maintained at the onus of the establishment owner
d) Rules of the State Government, BMC, Police, Fire strictly followed
Thinking of which, once the business starts rolling, who wouldn't take care of the above?
In a quick SWOT analysis, the only threat or weakness that comes across is a question constantly used to hammer out this proposal -how to guard against terrorism and anti-social behaviour. Thankfully, the Mumbai Police has thrown out the argument by accepting this proposal and reposing their faith in Mumbaikars.
Cities like New York and London are open 24/7 even after suffering major terrorist attacks. Anti-social elements, drunk drivers, terrorists are even found during the day, and under a strong government, I am sure that they will be neutralized.
One thing is for sure, the passage of this proposal will be monumental for a city like Mumbai because it opens up vast opportunities and makes Mumbai Mumbai again. The thriving nightlife will give an impetus to economy. Businesses will benefit, as well as the government with increasing revenue through taxes. Ancillary industries like public transport, food supplies and chains stand to gain. For the people, thousands of new jobs and a whole new world... a time zone to unwind and chill.
The next steps are crucial now - after the acceptance of Devendra Fadnavis, the Chief Minister of the State, we move to the amendments to the Shops and Establishment Act and Police Act through the Vidhan Sabha and the Vidhan Parishad.
My fellow Mumbaikars, being someone who loves to drive around at night and grab a bite, call me selfish or call it voicing what we all want, I am determined to get this proposal rolling and implemented. I am determined to change the way our city that never sleeps is put to sleep.
I will be pushing this proposal forward as I am determined to give Mumbaikars a whole new world. I hope you stand by me, while we get this rolling and when it is implemented.
As I said before, this works on trust, and I have full faith in my fellow Mumbaikars!
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