"With independence, Bombay, which had been a province, was made into an independent state with the merger of many former princely states, including the Gujarat and the Deccan and renamed as the State of Bombay, with a separate chief minister," says MD Bhansali, the chief secretary and development commissioner of Bombay State in the book Bombay State Five Year Plan, published in 1953.
"Bombay state is spread over an area of 1,11,343 square miles having 34,227 villages and 499 towns. The number of residential houses in the state numbers to 6,351,125," it states. A look at the statistics of the transport department reveals that it had just 61,047 vehicles, a very small number given the size of the state. Today, there are 21 lakh vehicles in Greater Mumbai alone which is just 437sqkm.
Besides independence, the state had just emerged from the losses of the second world war and had been undergoing the process of rebuilding of public infrastructure. The migration following the independence and partition put further burden on the already strained state.
"The efforts included building affordable housing by the Bombay Housing Board in suburbs of Bombay and transit camps for migrants at Ulhasnagar near Kalyan in Bombay. It also included organising skill-development and training programmes for those who settled there," it adds.
A local diary published in 1953 lists the number of public utilities that the city of Bombay had which included 22 tram routes; 25 bus routes for city, six for suburbs; 20 outstation trains departing from Victoria Terminus; eight ships routes of the Bombay Steam Navigation Company and about 42 public call offices from where public telephones could be used 24x7.
The huge Bombay state was dissolved with the formation of Maharashtra and Gujarat states on May 1, 1960, but memories and archives remain to tell the good old stories.
Bombay State number of vehicles for the year 1949