Mayor tags along with Uddhav to visit key dam
Even after BMC chief turned down her request to visit a dam, she tagged along with Uddhav Thackeray; BMC standing committee meet postponed due to visit.
After Mayor Shraddha Jadhav's request for holding an official visit to Middle Vaitarna dam -- a keynote BMC project -- was shot down by the municipal commissioner, she still made the visit, albeit not an official one. The Shiv Sena yesterday organised its own trip to see the progress of the dam before the civic elections, and the Mayor accompanied her party's functionaries including Uddhav Thackeray.
In tow: Mayor Shraddha Jadhav accompanies Shiv Sena President Uddhav
Thackeray to check the progress of the Rs 1,750-crore dam yesterday.
Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi
While experts call the visit "unjustified" and unbecoming of the office of the mayor, which "is supposed to be bereft of political considerations", others point out that the dam constitutes her party's centerpiece while canvassing prior to the BMC elections.
"As the tallest in the state and the fastest to be made in the country, the dam is Shiv Sena's key project to augment the water supply in the city," said a senior official from the BMC on the condition of anonymity. "There has been a spate of proposals from political parties to the municipal commissioner for holding inaugurations of and visits to various BMC projects. And he has asked them to submit details of the visit or the inauguration a week before it is due. But they never inform him seven days in advance. The mayor sent him a letter on Tuesday, a day prior to the visit, and he rejected it."
When MiD DAY spoke to Municipal Commissioner Subodh Kumar, he said, "The request was denied as work is still going on at the site. There is nothing to see. Once the entire project is complete, there would be an official visit to the dam by the corporation."
The Mayor herself remained unavailable for comment.
Meet put off
The visit interfered with the functioning of the BMC, as the Standing Committee meeting had to be postponed by a day, and rescheduled for today. Standing Committee chairman and Shiv Sena corporator Rahul Shewale said, "It was decided a week ago to slate the visit for Wednesday, but there was some delay in informing the commissioner. For the next event, we would inform him as soon as possible."
He added, "The Standing Committee did not have many major proposals for this meeting so it could easily be postponed. There are a few routine and some storm water drains proposals." The projects that Shewale said were not "major" included works worth crores of rupees and concerned water purification, repair of drains, garbage collection and other services (see box).
Agendas on hold
The following proposals were to be discussed in the meeting that was postponed, and this is what they cost:
>> Proposal of work at Panjrapur purification plant: Rs 11 crore
>> Proposal of paying the NGOs for picking garbage door-to-door in slums: Rs 27 crore
>> Proposal of repairing and constructing arch box drains: Rs 180 crore
>> Proposal of repairing walls along nullahs, rivers (storm water drain dept): Rs 50 crore
Senior Advocate Milind Sathe who is also an expert on Constitution said, "It is improper for the mayor to accompany a political leader, against the advice of the municipal commissioner."
Majeed Memon, senior counsel and vice-president of Maharashtra Nationalist Congress Party, said, "Constitutionally or politically, a mayor is supposed to be above party distinctions and her office is supposed to be bereft of any political considerations. She may originally belong to the Shiv Sena, yet, in discharge of duty as a mayor in office, she cannot be identified as a worker of a party at the cost of important transactions in the corporation. She can never be justified to have deserted her important official duties only to accompany her party leader outside Mumbai limits."
The Middle Vaitarna Dam is considered to be one of the strongest projects of the Shiv Sena-ruled BMC, as it aims to supply 455 million litres of water per day to the city. Officials said that although belated, around 70 per cent of the work on the dam is complete. The dam is slated to be functional by 2013.
Congress corporator Sameer Desai said, "The Shiv Sena is committing blunders by going on an inauguration spree. In their haste, they are showing cafetarias in hospitals as OPD wards. They should have waited till the project is complete, rather than trying to prove how much they have done."
MNS corporator Mangesh Sangle said, "It is just an election stunt. Other corporators were not even informed about the visit; we are clueless about it."