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'No need to buy us phones with taxpayer money'

The city’s corporators are not particularly ringing with enthusiasm over the BMC’s plan to dole out Ice Cream Sandwiches and Jelly Beans to them at the taxpayer’s expense. Opposition corporators - from the NCP, the MNS and the Congress - are opposing the civic body’s plan to buy them Android phones. The decision, announced last week in a group leaders’ meeting, makes a Rs 25-lakh provision in the civic budget 2013-14 for buying the phones.


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The brainwave issued from Rahul Shewale, Shiv Sena corporator and chairman of the civic standing committee, who said the Linux-based open source operating system would help Mumbai’s 232 corporators use web-based apps like pothole-tracking systems, upload pictures of garbage, open drains and so on. The BMC had, in late 2011, developed an Android-based software for citizens to flag potholes and upload pictures. Though some citizens downloaded the application, few corporators did.

No, thanks!
But some corporators cited conscience to deny the freebie. “I don’t want any mobile from the BMC. And I appeal to every corporator to ask themselves in earnest if they really need an Android phone at the cost of the taxpayer’s money?” said Sandeep Deshpande, MNS corporator from Dadar (W). Deshpande and another MNS corporator Santosh Dhuri wrote to Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte on Monday, saying they did not want any cell phone from the BMC.

Others made gags and took jabs at the Shiv Sena-ruled BMC’s proposal. Congress corporator Pravin Chheda from Ghatkopar has decided to “accept the cell phone from the BMC only to make a present of it the mayor”.┬áHe added, “It’s a sheer waste of public money. Corporators can afford the latest cell phones.” Another Congressman Sunil More jibed, “By the time the BMC gives us a cell phone, it would be outdated.”

The NCP is also resisting the hi-tech hand-out. “Everyone has the latest handset these days. I don’t think there is a need to take a phone from the BMC free of cost,” said Dhananjay Pisal, NCP group leader.

In 2009, all corporators had been given Sony Vaio laptops, then costing about Rs 52,000 each. The total expenditure was over Rs 1 crore. The objective was to provide corporators online access to various proposals up for discussion in the BMC committees, facility to upload circulars, photos etc and generally make the shift to a paperless work environment.

But an official from the IT department said the exercise was futile as few ever used the laptop for these purposes. BMC Commissioner Kunte said he would put the proposal up at the group leaders’ meet. “It’s up to group leaders whether they want the phones or not. We can give them the option if they want it,” said Kunte.

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