No respite for actor Avani Modi, whose number featured on BMC's posters; RTI activist alleges misuse of tax money
After mid-day exposed a goof-up in which the BMC published the cell phone number of a city actor in its poll publicity campaign, a demand has been raised that the money spent on publicity material should be recovered from the employees and officials responsible. The actress, Avani Modi, was put through great distress owing to this error. The BMC has admitted to the mistake calling it inadvertent, and assured to apologise to Modi.
On February 9, Modi, who acts in both Hindi and Gujarati film industries and has roles in movies such as Madhur Bhandarkar's Calendar Girls (2015) and the soon-to-release Gujarati social comedy Carry On Kesar, was subjected to hundreds of calls and texts. Her phone number had been mistakenly published in an advertisement by the BMC in some newspapers, directing citizens to reach out with election-related queries.
However, two days after the incident came to light, Modi claims she is still receiving calls. Additional commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh had told mid-day that he would send Modi a letter of apology. Modi says that neither has any such letter reached her nor has any BMC official bothered to get apologise to her. "No call, message or apologies from BMC yet. The number of calls has decreased but not stopped," Modi said Saturday afternoon. Modi's number continues to exist in publicity material, which has not been withdrawn from many sites in the city.
RTI activist Anil Galgali sent mid-day photographs of hoardings and standees that were still on display in some parts of the city on Saturday. "In spite of realising that the number given is wrong, no attempt has been made to correct the mistake," Galgali told mid-day. He said he has sent a letter to Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta asking him to recover taxpayers' money from the officials responsible.
"They must have spent a lot of money on the campaign and they may spend more in correcting mistakes. This is misuse of taxpayers' money," he said. Deshmukh hadn't responded to our text message till late afternoon. BMC's chief public relations officer Vijay Khabale came on line and assured to get us information.
Call this number
The right number that citizens with questions related to the BMC election can call on is 9029901901. A missed call to it generates a message with a link that takes the user to Operation Black Dot, an initiative to help citizens find out their polling booth and details of candidates as well as register code of conduct violations.
In another similar goof-up, the BMC officials have asked people to call on a the disaster management department's helpline for reporting violations of model code of conduct during elections. The department, however, wasn't informed about it before the exclusive number was made public. Officials in the disaster management department have complained to higher-ups telling them that they were not able to handle calls for which they are deputed.
Post this, a separate section has been created for attending to poll-related complaints. But, one has to still call the disaster management helpline to get diverted to the election section. And unknowingly, the people who call here are being charged as the 4-digit number isn't toll-free as was publicized by the BMC.BMC's chief public relations officer Vijay Khabale did not get back us with information sought despite our repeated calls and texts.