Politicians are supposed to be trustees of public property or public funds, but is it something that they live by?
Two recent incidents have revealed that our politicians do not think so. And this attitude among the netas is not the monopoly of any particular political party. It is the same across the party lines.
Following public outcry over the attempts made by the ruling parties to push through the controversial open spaces policy, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered civic chief Ajoy Mehta to review the policy and also take back more than 200 open spaces (playgrounds or recreation grounds) that had been given to various entities, including trusts or clubs controlled by politicians.
This came as a shock when two politicians asked the civic body to pay the money they had spent on ‘maintaining’ the open spaces they were caretakers of.
They first took these plots on the caretaker basis and denied access to the citizens. Then, the entities controlled by them rented out the plots for functions including weddings to birthday parties by charging enormous amounts without paying anything to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
And now they want the BMC to return the money they spent on maintaining the grounds! Who says the politicians in power are expected to behave like trustees of the public property?
If this was not enough, we saw 30 elected representatives to the civic body, including the first citizen of the city, going on a five-day tour of Andaman and Nicobar islands, apparently to study how the local administration handles issues such as drainage.
These representatives of the citizens of Mumbai were not bothered by the fact that the tour was a sham since the problems faced by a big city are different from what the administration of Andaman and Nicobar islands is handling.
They just needed a reason to visit the place. It did not matter when questions were raised over the tour.
In fact, at regular intervals, the elected members of the civic body have been travelling to various tourist destinations including Jammu and Kashmir, Andaman and Sikkim by spending lakhs of taxpayers’ money.
And how does that help the city? Rarely do the visiting teams file reports on what they learnt from the tour and that could be used in the city’s administration.
Worse, those who were part of the trip do not think they have done anything inappropriate.
If one wants another example of a similar mentality, one just needs to look at the way elected representatives take credit for the work they do.
At several places in the city, we see boards or plaques in the name of elected representatives for the ‘developmental work’ they have done through the local area development fund they get — laying tiles on footpaths, beautifying public areas or even building toilets.
If the money spent on these works comes from the taxpayers’ kitty, then why do the elected representatives put up advertisements in their name (and that too probably with our money)?
If they really want the people to know what they do with the development fund, they can just put forth the information in the public domain. But then, do they bother what we think about it?
So are they for to be called the trustees of public property or funds? Definitely not.