Why BMC babus turned down a free trip to Moscow!

While an additional or deputy municipal commissioner has always accompanied earlier mayors abroad, sources said authorities gave Mayor Snehal Ambekar’s recent Russia trip a miss due to the freezing weather there

Senior officers at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) shied away from having to accompany Mayor Snehal Ambekar on her maiden foreign tour. The reason? Ambekar had been invited to an event in Russia, which BMC sources said was “too cold” for senior officials.

Mumbai Mayor Snehal Ambekar with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin during the Moscow Urban Forum. Pic courtesy Press Service of the Mayor and Moscow Government
Mumbai Mayor Snehal Ambekar with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin during the Moscow Urban Forum. Pic courtesy Press Service of the Mayor and Moscow Government

Ambekar attended the Fourth Moscow Urban Forum from December 10 to December 14, an event where government officials and urban experts from different countries came together to share interesting practices and new strategies for developing cities in a better way. This was her first ever tour to another nation.

All past mayors have been accompanied by an additional municipal commissioner (AMC) or deputy municipal commissioner (DMC) on such foreign conferences. However, the mayor had Devendrakumar Jain, assistant municipal commissioner, for company.

If sources in the BMC are to be believed, this is because no IAS officer from the corporation wanted to go due to the freezing weather conditions there. Jain, and some other functionaries, were asked to go instead. Maximum temperatures hovered around 0 to 3 degrees Celsius during the mayor’s visit, while minimum touched -3.

Speculations started doing the rounds as to why Jain had been sent when AMCs and DMCs were all in town. Congress party’s Devendra Amberkar, Opposition leader in the BMC, said, “The Shiv Sena cannot question the administration. This is why they didn’t even ask why the mayor was being accompanied by an assistant commissioner on her first foreign tour. Jain is not even from her G-South ward.” Jain is from P-North ward.

A senior officer, who refused to be identified, said, “There were discussions regarding whom to send for the tour, as the confirmation came at the eleventh hour. The municipal commissioner had said he would not go. Other senior officers like the AMCs and DMCs cited extreme cold in Russia and workload to turn down the trip. Hence, Jain was asked to go along with the mayor as an administration representative.”

Jain dismissed these reasons. “The (municipal) commissioner told me to attend the forum, not because nobody else was ready to go. I had been told well in advance. This is not the first time an assistant commissioner went with a mayor; it is part of our work.”

The mayor, on her part, said otherwise. “I did not know who the officer accompanying me was till the last minute. I had asked the municipal commissioner to accompany me, but because he could not make it, he asked Devendrakumar Jain to go instead. It would have been good if a senior-level officer had come along as it is easier to take decisions, but Jain did a good job there. He will soon give a presentation on our visit.”

Official speak
When mid-day contacted Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh, he said, “Since the function was for the urban development department, I did not come into the picture for this trip. I handle the health portfolio.”

Sources said Additional Municipal Commissioners Vikas Kharge was busy with work and another officer of the same rank, Rajiv Jalota, was scheduled to go to Nagpur for the winter session of the state assembly; as such, both were out of the reckoning for the Moscow visit. Additional Municipal Commissioner S V R Srinivas didn’t respond to our phone calls.

About the forum
The Moscow Urban Forum is an international event for discussions between some of world’s most acknowledged experts in city planning and urban development. Discussions centre on the opportunities and challenges that are vital for modern megacities and the growth perspectives of global cities, not only when viewed in the context of economy and efficient management, but also through the eyes of an individual citizen.

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