Monday, February 04, 2008

Ethnic Cleasing in Mumbai? Give me a break.

Mumbai is a city of 21 million people; arguably one of the world's most diverse and cosmopolitan cities. It has among the highest population densities on the planet; it has the one of the world's largest slums; approximately 100,000 prostitutes; the world's most over-burdened sub-urban railway system and a film industry that makes more movies than Hollywood in a given year.

And if the developments in the last few days are considered, we realize that there's no shortage of imbeciles in Mumbai either. And I speak of none other than one "Raj Thakeray"; a political cipher trying to emulate his uncle's (Bal Thakeray's) openly racist and divisive politics (with only limited success). His passionate efforts to rid Mumbai of North Indian immigrants are so doomed from day one that it will be extremely enjoyable to see his entire movement implode.

Here's why. Let's consider some numbers now:

With 20% of the population of Mumbai being North Indians, Mr Thakeray has confronting him the unenviable task of deporting 4 million people, (which is half the popluation of Israel if anyone's keeping count). If he manages to do this without much bloodshed, then this would be a first in the history of humanity. And if he does manage to do this, I am sure some American politicians (and Lou Dobbs) would give an arm and a leg to learn how to repeat this feat with Mexican "illegal" immgirants (12 million of whom seem to have set permanent anchor in the US).

So, how would Mr. Thakeray go about this task?

Certainly, the most practical way out of Mumbai would be by train. Mr. Thakeray would have to give away each one of those 4 million people one-way tickets home. Some of those tickets will have to be air-conditioned. I know a few North Indians who would rather die than travel in three tier during the summer. And once the train reaches wherever it is supposed to, he must sabotage its engine such that it never comes back. (But this m.o. involves sacrificing a Marathi Saboteur - a suicide Saboteur, if you will - for an enraged North-Indian public will certainly lynch the gentleman in question.). This venture is unlikely to be financially lucrative either. Mr. Thakeray will have to spend an average of Rs. 500 per ticket - a grand total of 4million x 500 = Rs 2 billion. (The option of advertising on the train will be of little use too, since he does not expect those people to come back to Mumbai).

Clearly, this is not a tenable solution. Even if Mr. Thakeray were to procure the money by begging, borrowing or stealing, (the latter being the most probable) most North Indians would either

(a) Not go, sell the ticket to someone else (and ask them to change their name while traveling)
(b) Go, say Hi to Mum and come back

leaving his scheme doomed, like one of Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge's bizarre capitalistic ventures.

Mr. Thakeray could consider going to each house and weeping in front of the principal bread-winners. He could sob (in Marathi) "You're taking opportunities away from my people. Please, starve your family for my people's sake. Please be humane.". Alas, this scheme would only give him a black eye on lucky days.

He could try putting an economic squeeze by holding businesses in ransom from doing business with North Indians. This again is unlikely to work, since a majority of the businesses are not run by Marathi. This, as a matter of fact is bound to back-fire.

And, finally, one hopes, it will dawn upon Mr. Thakeray that only a simultaneous repeal-ment of the entire Indian constitution and the second law of thermodynamics will allow his fantasy to come true. But given that politics is all about inciting emotions, Mr. Thakeray is doing the rational thing.

The second law of thermodynamics talks about "spontaneity" - whenever there is a disparity, things tend to try to even out. (If they wouldn't try to even out, then there wouldn't have been a disparity in the first place.) That's why Mexicans come by the millions ("illegally") to the US; That's why Bangladeshis come by the millions to India - and people migrate by the millions to Urban Areas like Mumbai.

There is little one can do to stop free will, as Mr Thakeray will no doubt learn.