Monday Musings: Civic-centric, but unpopular, projects could take off under administrator

In Pune, municipal commissioner Vikram Kumar, who is also serving as the administrator, has been pushing for expediting projects, some unpopular and seemingly difficult to be executed, if public representatives are in the game
For over two months now, some of the big municipal corporations in the state, including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and Nashik, are under administrator’s rule (HT FILE PHOTO)
For over two months now, some of the big municipal corporations in the state, including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and Nashik, are under administrator’s rule (HT FILE PHOTO)
Updated on May 23, 2022 04:09 PM IST
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Pune: For over two months now, some of the big municipal corporations in the state, including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and Nashik, are under administrator’s rule. It is an unusual situation emerged in over 14 civic bodies due to the Maharashtra government’s unwillingness to go for elections and the Opposition parties too supporting the stand till the Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation is restored.

Municipal corporations are important to large human settlements as they are entrusted to perform various functions such as regulating land use and building constructions, urban planning, water supply, sewage and garbage management…etc.

More than anything, municipal corporations act as the first guardian for citizens. If there’s a fire in the neighbourhood, or an epidemic breaks out in the city, civic bodies are the first to act. Same goes with illegal encroachments and other civic inconveniences.

In Pune, many thought the expiry of corporators’ term in view of the two bills passed by the state legislative assembly will adversely affect the governance and slow down implementation of key projects. The legislative assembly and legislative council unanimously passed two bills in March, laying the grounds for the postponement of local body elections in Maharashtra till the OBC reservation is restored.

The Supreme Court, however, took an adverse view of this and has asked the State Election Commission (SEC) to start preparing for the polls. The SEC has also on its part set the ball rolling again by publishing ward structures. The bureaucratic process may take its time for polls, but for citizens, it’s the time they can expect decisions, which otherwise could have seen political interference.

In Pune, municipal commissioner Vikram Kumar, who is also serving as the administrator, has been pushing for expediting projects, some unpopular and seemingly difficult to be executed, if public representatives are in the game.

After the anti-encroachment drive and proposed revamp of Balgandharva auditorium, Kumar has initiated process to implement paid parking on five streets. The proposal in the pipeline for three years was not implemented by PMC as corporators feared backlash from voters.

It is high time PMC implement the long-pending paid parking in the city by identifying streets.

As per a proposal approved by the PMC standing committee four years ago, Pune was divided into three zones based on the level of congestion — central business district areas, mobility corridors and the rest. The parking charges would be different for periods from 8 am to 10 pm and from 10 pm to 8 am. For two-wheelers, the hourly charges would be a minimum of 2 per hour and a maximum of 4 for on-street parking while it would be a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 3 for off-street parking. For the night, the charges would be fixed and not on an hourly basis. The PMC general body okayed the proposal but faced opposition from corporators as none wanted the chosen streets to be from the area they represent. Kumar should exercise his power to ensure the project sees the light of the day.

Traffic is among the biggest problems Pune faces, and paid parking is one of the crucial solutions.

Similarly, there are three infrastructure projects — Bal Bharati-Paud Phata road; HCMTR-elevated road on Law College tekdi slope, and two tunnels with exits at Sutardhara, Panchawati and Gokhalenagar — facing opposition from residents. The opposition is mostly on the grounds of possible disruption and destruction to ecology at Vetal hill, known for its rich biodiversity.

The issue has already seen political intervention with NCP leaders like Sharad Pawar and party MP Vandana Chavan holding talks with those not in favour of these projects. One of these projects, Bal Bharati-Paud Phata road, was first proposed 35 years ago and has gone through several ups and downs.

The PMC administration can engage environmentalists and citizens to check its feasible and can identify other options that will offer respite to thousands of commuters travelling on the stretch.

Pune has been known for its assertive civic activism. Be it PMC’s development plan at Taljai hill or the forest department’s plan to beautify it, residents have forced the administration to changed its course.

On the face of it, consequences of the appointment of an administrator in any civic body are severe. It marks the end of the duly elected body in a municipal corporation and corporators cease to be elected representatives. It, therefore, follows that all popularly constituted committees where councillors/corporators were members relinquish their office. Besides, the civic body must continue to discharge its duties such as making policies, implementing plans and budgets and regulating the municipal affairs of the city where counsellors can play a proactive role. However, we don’t live in utopia and elected representatives carry vested interests too.

To prevent such interests being fulfilled, the administrator can use the small window of limited time and exercise the official power to push projects which are otherwise hard to get through.

Yogesh Joshi can be contacted at yogesh.joshi@htlive.com

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Yogesh Joshi is Assistant Editor at Hindustan Times. He covers politics, security, development and human rights from Western Maharashtra.

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