The scam-ridden Pune Municipal Corporation drastically needs change in political leadership

Maharashtra is all set to face some of the most important Zillah Parishad, Municipal Corporation elections during this month. Most of the journalists are focusing on BMC elections and giving very little attention to state’s second most important city that is also known as Maharashtra’s IT city. Yes, this is about Pune and its Pune Municipal Corporation. PMC is dominated by Sharad Pawar’s NCP and congress for more than a decade now.

The city is all set to face polls on February 21, and results will be declared on February 23, 2017. NCP and its leader Ajit Pawar’s political relevance is at stake. NCP is the single largest party in the PMC with 51 corporators, followed by Congress 29, MNS 28, BJP 26, and Shiv Sena’s 12 corporators.

NCP’s campaign claims they have changed the city’s face and developed it into a world-class city. Any municipal corporation that manages garbage, sewage, infrastructure, illegal constructions, public transport, and other civic issues appropriately can tag itself as efficient.  PMC claims it’s one of the best civic bodies in the country, but the reality is horrible. Transparency and accountability are missing in the NCP-controlled PMC.

Roads are pathetic; sewage water is released into Mula-Mutha river, untreated. City’s traffic management is horribly pathetic, illegal constructions are on the rise, public transport is hopeless as well as scam-ridden, and most importantly, garbage management has raised eyebrows.

Zero-garbage-city plan is a complete failure

As part of their so-called Zero-Garbage-City plan, PMC got rid of garbage containers in certain wards and appointed NGOs for door-to-door collection of garbage since 2010.

According to the initial plan, the project involved civic administration, NGOs, waste pickers, and corporates for funding the activity. New waste processing plants were to be constructed in every panel to save garbage transportation and processing cost. Initially, the PMC and corporates were supposed to spend money on this project. But later, an additional burden of Rs.80 (per month) was imposed on Puneites by door-to-door garbage collection reps (including those from Swach (Swach Seva Sahakari Sanstha) appointed by corporators.

Wards are probably divided into two groups. PMC’s garbage collection vehicles visit areas in the first group and collect garbage from people, free of cost. While those living in the areas that are in the second group do not get this free service. They need to pay a monthly charge of Rs 80 and opt for door-to-door garbage collection service from private service providers, appointed by the local corporator of course. Garbage is collected twice or thrice every week. Be ready to pay more if you cannot speak Marathi or if you look fair and educated.

PMC’s free garbage collection trucks mostly visit slum areas (it’s obvious; slum-dwellers get everything for free). Similar trucks collect garbage from commercial establishments during the evening.

Those who do not wish to pay Rs.80 every month often throw their garbage on the road as they do not have any other alternative.

People in Pune’s panel number 10 are frustrated due to this issue. Currently, the ward has MNS corporator-Pushpa Kanojia and NCP’s senior corporator-Bandu Kemse. Here are some pictures that show how the area badly needs garbage containers.

Location: Right Bhusari Colony and spots near Chandni Chowk Flyover

On contacting, MNS corporator’s representative, he claimed that the concerned ward is garbage free and they have allowed private garbage collectors to charge Rs. 30 for door-to-door garbage collection and not more than that. Their answer was simple. “PMC has appointed NGOs as well as reps for garbage collection and to keep the ward clean. Everything is going great. We don’t need containers in the area.”

Possible nexus between corporators and garbage collection agencies

BJP’s candidate from this panel-Kiran Dagade had arranged a free garbage collection mini-truck for people living in areas that are a part of panel 10 since Diwali last year, but he faced legal action and backlash from NCP’s sitting corporator-Bandu Kemse.

“People in this area have no other option but to pay charges for disposal of garbage. These private collectors do not have any fixed timing for garbage collection. Thus, individuals who leave their house by 9 AM and come back from office after 7 PM have no other option but to throw garbage on the road due to the absence of garbage containers. I had arranged a mini-truck that can come at anyone’s doorstep to collect garbage for free throughout the day. All that the people had to do was to call the given number. But, sitting corporator Bandu Kemse (PMC leader of the house) was irked and he took legal action against me. Some people are ruining PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat dream simply because they want to make money in garbage collection and transportation,” said Kiran Dagade while interacting with journalists.

Sitting corporator Kemse talks about garbage recycling plant set up by the PMC in his ward. But, his representatives do not say anything when it comes to garbage collection, management, and garbage heaps along roadside in several parts of the ward.

The picture is clear; these private agencies are not NGOs because most of them have employed minors, child-laborers for door-to-door collection of garbage in the city.

Reps from PMC appointed Swach (Swach Seva Sahakari Sanstha) also offers door-to-door waste collection service in certain wards. Swach is a wholly-owned cooperative of self-employed waste collectors and other urban poor. Even Swach takes transparency for a ride, they have an impressive website, but that does not mention the rate that they charge for door-to-door garbage collection.

An official from PMC’s garbage department interacted with this journalist on condition of anonymity and shared his opinion on this issue. “The city expanded quickly since the last decade, but PMC’s manpower did not increase. If we install garbage containers in every ward/panel, we do not have enough people and other resources to transport garbage from containers to various waste management centers. Thus, we are urging housing societies as well as politicians to keep a minimum number of containers. We also want every panel to have its own waste treatment plant in the future,” said the official.

Certain garbage vehicles can be seen in various parts of the city with Adar Poonawalla Clean City ads. Their litter bins are present in very few areas. It looks more like an advertisement campaign instead of clean city movement as claimed by the Poonawalla foundation and PMC. Their men can be seen ‘acting as if they were’ cleaning footpaths in some parts of the city.

In December last year, PMC commissioner Kunal Kumar declared that the civic body will once again install 1,600 garbage bins equipped with cutting edge technology by June 2017. This means, even authorities are aware about how unsuccessful their Zero-Garbage-City plan has been.

Due to this, garbage collection has become an important election issue for candidates this year. Many candidates from the BJP and Shiv Sena have promised installation of garbage containers and free garbage collection vehicles in their wards/panels.

Pune city drastically needs a change in political leadership. Garbage issue dominates the list of problems. The administration in Pune is not transparent, accountable or democratic at all. MSM ignores all these issues, perhaps, as part of some propaganda. Hope people vote wisely on Tuesday.

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