Maharashtra Assembly Polls: Devious babus attempt to stifle NOTA threat in Navi Mumbai

Updated: Oct 18, 2019, 10:07 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Navi Mumbai

mid-day follow up: As 100-plus societies threaten to opt for NOTA, election and CIDCO officials try to browbeat them with mischievous notice

Residents holding placards protest at Kharghar junction on Thursday
Residents holding placards protest at Kharghar junction on Thursday

Over a hundred housing societies in Panvel assembly constituency that threatened to opt for NOTA (None Of The Above) were on Thursday called for a public meeting by the Election Commission's local assistant returning officer. The residents, who live across Kharghar, Kalamboli, Kamothe and Panvel, refused to attend the meeting.

mid-day was the first to report on October 15 about how various housing societies were galvanising support for NOTA as the local administration and the sitting MLA had failed to deliver basic amenities like clean water, good roads and good air quality. The Panvel constituency is among the state's biggest, with 5.5 lakh eligible voters.

On October 16, a day after mid-day's report, residents in several neighbourhoods noticed repair work begin out of the blue, but remained firm on their decision. At 2 pm on Thursday, October 17, CIDCO sent a message and an email to just one person — Mangal Kamble, president of the umbrella Swach Kharghar Foundation — calling everyone for a meeting with the returning officer at 4 pm to discuss their "boycott call."

Residents of Tapaswi Aradhana housing society with a banner stating they will opt for NOTA
Residents of Tapaswi Aradhana housing society with a banner stating they will opt for NOTA

The letter, signed by Kedaree Jadhav, Joint Registrar, Cooperative Societies, CIDCO, read: 'Societies under Panvel Municipal Corporation are being informed that the assistant returning officer, tehsildar and sub-divisional magistrate, Panvel, have learnt that people have called for a boycott of elections as they are unhappy about civic facilities and some cooperative societies have put banners on their main entrance opposing the elections. This is a serious issue and CIDCO has been asked to intervene and take necessary measures so the public view can be changed.'

Residents immediately spotted the mischief and deviousness in the wording of the notice. "We never called for a boycott," a furious Kamble told mid-day. "We asked people to come out in large numbers and vote for NOTA to express their dismay over poor civic facilities. It is wrong of the officials to twist the meaning of our campaign. It is evident that officials were working under pressure. They should clarify the same. Also, how is it possible to attend a public meeting on a working day with two hours notice?"

A very highly placed serving state electoral officer told mid-day that junior officials were wrong and there is a clear difference between a call for boycott and a call to vote NOTA. "The concerned official who wrote the letter should clarify the context in which he used the word 'boycott'," he said. "NOTA is a valid option available to voters, which they can rightfully exercise if they wish to."

Returning Officer Dattu Nawale and CIDCO officials were among those left red-faced as nobody turned up for the meeting. Nawale said CIDCO will address citizens' concerns after results are announced on October 24. He also tried to explain away the notice, saying he read the words 'No Vote' on the posters to infer that residents had called for a boycott.

"We saw the poster in newspaper reports saying 'No Service, No Vote' or 'No Development, No Vote' and decided to take up the matter," he said. Jadhav, who signed the letter, meanwhile tried to blame the typist. "It seems the typist, in a hurry, had made a mistake of using the word 'boycott', which was not intended," he said.

Asked why he sent the letter to just one person, Jadhav said they were in a hurry to act on the directions of the assistant returning officer. "We have 9,000 cooperative societies registered and a formal letter to each society would have taken over a week and not served any purpose," he said.

Letter SKF wrote to CIDCO and RO

It was very kind of you to reply to our letter and show concern over the matter of the present scene on the election. We highly respect your gesture to arrange a meeting between CIDCO joint registrar and society representative so as to resolve issues. Since the intimation is in very short notice many members will not be able to attend the meeting. Sir, we need your kind support even post-election. Below are our grievances which can be conveyed to CIDCO.

Water: Water is a basic necessity of all residents and supplying water in adequate quantity to all these residents is the core responsibility of CIDCO while planning of any residential area. Fortunately, rainwater in Konkan areas is in sufficient quantity and can cater to the water supply requirement of areas like Kharghar and all other areas under CIDCO jurisdiction. It is, therefore, CIDCO who has to come in action and take new measures and tap the bottlenecks of current water supply, in order to supply enough water to all these areas for the period not only prior to elections but post the results of elections and forever

Road: Roads in Kharghar under Panvel constituency were in bad shape prior to the monsoon to start with. And there was enough time available to CIDCO to start the repairing of these roads. When the protests of citizens increased over boycotting the elections and visit of Prime Minister Sir, the work of repairing these roads on a temporary basis has begun on war-footing in a single day at majority areas just to appease the residents. It is, therefore, CIDCO who has to come in action immediately and instead of repairing the roads temporarily, repair these roads with better quality and durability in all the sectors including all internal service roads.

Footpath: Similarly like roads, footpaths are not maintained in the entire region of Kharghar coming under Panvel Constituency. CIDCO has not yet started to repair the damaged footpaths. In fact, the work of repairing these footpaths has to be taken up immediately.

Basic Infrastructure like, signals, parking, etc
Hence, at this juncture organising a meeting with society representatives and CIDCO for basic needs like water, roads, footpath of general public will not help CIDCO resolve their water supply management. In fact, in this election period this meeting will worsen the current situation of boycotting the elections. Already, residents of this nodes are financially overburdened to pay the retrospective property tax imposed by Panvel Mahanagar Palika. To have major turnout for these elections, immediate repairs and solutions is an opportunity with CIDCO to win the hearts of general public. Instead, last moment meeting will aggravate the citizens. We can take the matter further post elections.

Mangal Kamble.
President SKF

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