Thanks to the unprecedented controversy over the draft development plan (DP), the Maharashtra government has transferred Sitaram Kunte and appointed senior IAS officer Ajoy Mehta as the chief of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis signed Kunte’s transfer order, minutes before he left for Israel on Sunday. Kunte will now serve as the principal secretary (environment), the post that was so far held by 1984 batch IAS officer Mehta.
HT had, in its March 25 edition, reported that Kunte was on his way out and would be replaced by Mehta.
The state government and the civic body have faced attacks from all quarters over the goof-ups and the numerous errors in the draft DP. Urban planners, citizen groups and NGOs consistently demanded the scrapping of the plan, forcing the government to appoint a committee headed by chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya to look into it. The committee, too, pointed out the errors related to the existing and proposed land use and recommended the scrapping of the plan.
With an endorsement from the government committee, the Opposition and ruling parties demanded that the responsibility for the goof-ups be fixed. After Fadnavis announced the scrapping of the draft last Tuesday, it became clear that some heads will have to roll. Although the state maintained the transfer was routine, it is evident that without being entirely responsible for the chaos, the errors have cost Kunte dear.
“The errors were technical and comparatively only a few considering the mammoth task. The political leadership was so upset with Kunte that he was not even given a hearing while deciding on the scrapping of the plan,” sources close to the outgoing commissioner said.
An official from the Mantralaya said, “Generally, a group of officers is transferred, even when only a particular officer has to be punished. But in this case, the leadership wanted to send out a message loud and clear.”
Justifying his work, Kunte, in his farewell speech, said, “In the past three years, we have completed several mega projects which were needed for the city. Maintaining the status of an international city like Mumbai is always a challenge for its civic body. But I tried my best.”
Mehta, who took charge on Monday, held a meeting with the disaster management cell, which assumes significance in the wake of the Nepal earthquake as well as the monsoon. “In a few days, I will review the city’s monsoon preparedness,” he said, promising better services to citizens.
When asked about the controversial DP, Mehta refused to say much, stating he is yet to get all details.