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Mumbai civic body signs up to WhatsApp to up ante against hawkers, encroachments

WhatsApp has given a fillip to the anti-encroachment drive and improved coordination between various civic departments

mumbai Updated: Nov 19, 2017 23:23 IST
Eeshanpriya M S
Eeshanpriya M S
Hindustan Times
Dadar station without hawkers.(Hindustan Times)

Officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation are glued to the mobile messaging service application WhatsApp to keep an eye on encroachments, illegal hawkers and hoardings. The application has given a fillip to the anti-encroachment drive and improved coordination between various civic departments, said officials.

Officials of the license and encroachment departments have admitted that their work has gained impetus in the past three months owing to their switch to WhatsApp and use of smartphones.

Municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta said, “Smartphones with all their applications have certainly made communication faster. It has helped in inter-departmental coordination.”

There are about 250 civic officials from the licence and encroachment removal departments. They are divided into two centralised WhatsApp groups, and several smaller ward-level and zonal-level groups. They constantly communicate with each other about the progress of their work.

A senior civic official said, “There are about 50 senior officials, including zonal and departmental heads, in each group. There is another group of field officials that has about 200 members. Updates received from field officials by us are relayed to senior officials. It has simplified communication and fast-tracked work.”

Siddharth Bansode, deputy superintendent of the licence department said, “We give updates to our seniors — deputy municipal commissioner and additional municipal commissioner-level officials — every hour about action taken by the department. We post videos and photos. Earlier, we used to send reports only once a week.”

Bansode said any civic official who come across encroachments can click a photograph and send it to a WhatsApp group. It is in turn sent to the higher authorities, who after verifying violation send officials to demolish encroachments or evict hawkers.

A field official said, “Earlier, hawkers would be tipped off about a BMC crackdown and vacate the spot before officials arrived. This was because of lack of communication and coordination between BMC departments. WhatsApp has plugged this loophole.”

Meanwhile, the microblogging website Twitter has become a source of gratification for field officials.

When senior officials tweet photographs of action against unauthorised hawkers, or illegal banners, field officials feel their work is being recognised. Bansode said, “When I tell officials from my department that the deputy municipal commissioner has tweeted photographs about their work, it gives them a lot to look forward to.”

Between August and October, the BMC had removed 58,000 hawkers in Mumbai, of them 20,899 hawkers were evicted in October. It had also demolished 461 religious structures and at least 11 extensions to hotels and eateries since February. On Friday, the BMC demolished a portion of the wall of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Santacruz.”

First Published: Nov 19, 2017 23:23 IST