Problems persist; BMC Twitter ineffectual

May 26, 2023 12:39 AM IST

The Mumbai North Central District Forum has accused the BMC of failing to address citizens' complaints through its social media channels, despite doubling its budget for the service. The BMC awarded a social media contract to Concept Communication in November 2019 for nearly INR20m ($263,000) to provide a 17-strong team of social media experts. However, the MNCDF alleges the team is ineffective, and that previously active Twitter officers are now ignoring complaints. Several citizens' groups have called for the BMC to introduce a complaint number and time frame for redressal.

Mumbai: The Mumbai North Central District Forum (MNCDF) has alleged that despite the BMC nearly doubling its social media budget from the last tender, its Twitter handles have been ineffective in resolving citizens’ complaints. Several other citizens’ forums too are angry that the BMC’s social media team has not been responding to complaints for many months.

HT Image
HT Image

According to data obtained by MNCDF, a copy of which is with HT, the BMC awarded its social media contract to Concept Communication Ltd last November at a cost of nearly 2 crore. The contract, which was paid in two different purchase orders (November and April) states that there is one social media expert, 12 content designers/writers/researchers, one graphic designer, one photographer, one videographer and one translator.

“The BMC has spent nearly 2 crore a year on a 17-member social media team but its Twitter handles are totally ineffective,” said Advocate Trivankumar Karnani, founder of MNCDF. “While previously every ward had a Twitter officer who would listen to citizens, the Twitter grievance redressal mechanism has now turned into a PR activity. Citizens and activists have to call BMC offices to get them to take cognisance of their tweets.”

When Karnani reached out to the BMC’s public relations department on the issue, he was told that this was a different team, and its priority was not handling citizens’ complaints. “I was shocked,” he said. “I obtained the documents to ascertain the fees since they are being paid from taxpayers’ money.”

A representative of the popular Twitter handle @mumbaimatterz, which routinely raises various civic issues, said, “It was with great fanfare that these ward-wise Twitter handles were launched in June 2019 to handle citizens’ grievances. But now they barely acknowledge tweets. The BMC should allot a complaint number and a time frame for redressal. It should also have dedicated handles for attending to issues like debris-dumping, abandoned vehicles and uncleared garbage.”

Chetan Kamble, founder of Chakachak Dadar, said he had tweeted about a missing manhole cover on May 4. “It’s been 20 days but the BMC has still not attended to it,” he said. Added Sunil Sahajwalla from the Oshiwara Lokhandwala Active Citizen: “Multiple follow-up tweets are needed to get the civic body to act on anything.”

Mandeep Singh Makkar, founder member of the Chandivali Citizens Welfare Association (CCWA) said that complaining to BMC Twitter handles was akin to talking to a wall. “Forget taking action, there’s hardly any response,” he said. “There are many issues taken up by CCWA on Twitter, including garbage heaps on the roads, traffic jams, footpath encroachments, bad roads, air and noise pollution, an incomplete 90-feet road, an abandoned mini fire station and many more.” Makkar added that the BMC failed to remove an abandoned sofa that was lying in the middle of the traffic-filled Chandivali Farm Road traffic even after nine tweets in 45 days. Afterwards, some locals had it removed,” he said.

Ataul Khan, a social activist from Dharavi averred that earlier the ward offices would respond to complaints and revert with photo evidence but that had stopped, and activists had to keep chasing them. A representative of the Twitter page @mulundinfo said, “When it comes to hawkers and squatters’ complaints in T Ward, the tweets don’t receive a response from the BMC in over 90 percent of the cases. The BMC has a selective approach when it comes to responding on Twitter.”

Asheesh Sharma, additional commissioner (public relations), did not respond to HT’s messages a day after promising to “look into it and get back”.

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