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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Whose House is this anyway?

Who is the owner of the Pune Municipal Corporation? The corporators elected by the voters whose credentials are always under the shadow of suspicion? The public who is supposed to be king in a democratic system? Government turns a Nelson’s eye whenever the question of public welfare is put in front of it but is ecstatically active whenever some sort of fodder visible in the deal? This is the questions few enlightened souls in the city are asking to the functionaries who taken upon them to unquestioningly assume all authority and skip the responsibilities involved therein.

The issue came to fore when a handful of activists filed Right to Information application and unearthed data from PMC. The data clearly showed that even though the elected public representatives do not spare any attempt to scream from their rooftops on various issues in city, the same representatives more often than not skip their duty when the moment of reckoning comes.

An application filed by Sandeep Khardekar, President of Creative Foundation and city deputy chief of Bharatiya Janata Party; Vivek Velankar, founder of Sajag Nagrik Manch; Vijay Kumbhar of Surajya Sangharsh Samiti;Jugal Rathi of PMP Pravasi Manch; Suryakant Pathak of Akhil Bharatiya Grahak Panchayat and senior cartoonist Mangesh Tendulkar brought the grim picture forward. The information showed that corporators across party lines, from ruling as well as opposition benches, gave a bye to the voting on important issues as well as General Body Meeting.

According to Khardekar, “The average presence in the GB meeting comes to 50 to 60 percent. The actual members present at the time of concluding the meeting is never more than 20 percent. This when the GB meeting of PMC is scheduled for three to four days in a month. The dates for the meeting are pre-fixed. Still, the members are not eager to attend them.”

The just demand by the activists and their fact-supported attack did not go down well with the political parties. Ruling Nationalist Congress Party and Congress hit back at the same activists and asked them not to meddle into their affairs. Ankush Kakde, spokesman for the NCP went on to say that, NGOs have developed the habit of targeting corporators on some issue or the other. “Citizens elect civic representatives, who are thus answerable only to the common man, and not the NGOs," was his refrain.

Aba Bagul, leader of opposition in PMC and leader of Congress as well, even went further. “NGO members should contest the civic elections and take active part in the functioning of the PMC. Only then will they know under what pressure the corporators work,” he challenged the activists. The bold statements by the political parties were hard to digest by the intelligentsia. Tendulkar, a veteran in his eighties and having experience of more than 50 years for fighting for public cause, raised the question which we have highlighted above: whose house is this anyway? According to him, ‘the time has come to ask who is the real boss here.’

The public have chosen their representatives so that they can discuss and raise the problems faced by the citizens. The representatives have not been sent their to gossip and engage in mud slinging. They were not sent to the PMC house to bargain for their ‘fare share’ of commissions in tenders issued by the civic body. The PMC has a glorious history of more than 50 years but the recent incidents have overshadowed much of that glory. One corporator (Dattatray Khade) is in jail after being convicted of murder; another one (Deepak Mankar) is facing charges of land grabbing and threatening with life. One or two another are having criminal cases pending against their names. In such a scenario, it was a welcome move on the part of some of the activists to take a bold step and unearth information. Whatever points raised till now against the corporators, they were only accusations. This time it is the data which has provided ammunition to the attack.

It will be fallacy to think that all corporators skip their duty. Far from that. Fortunately, we still have people there who care for public probity and responsibility. In this scenario, it was reassuring that corporators like Mukta Tilak and Ujjwal Keskar stood on activists’ side and rapped the parties. However, it has every possibility that this verbal duel might take turn of mud slinging. Before that happens, Pune needs this answer: whose house is this?

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