'Successful BRTS and Metro will be a reality in tomorrow's Pune'
After completing a year and seven months in office, Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Pathak visits the MiD DAY office and answers questions on many civic issues, from the new Development Plan to the implementation of the Metro project, claiming he's on the right track with his vision for the city. Excerpts from the interview
How have you been giving shape to the many PMC civic projects in the city over the year-and-half that you have been in office?
I have been counting each day of mine in the city and have just completed 19 months as municipal commissioner. This is interesting work and I don’t think it as a strain on me. So far I could give shape to the cleanliness drive, put public transport in place and focus on infrastructure development. We have also prepared the JNNURM Phase II report for many development works. For the next year, in 2013, my focus will be more on traffic infrastructure, the zero-garbage campaign, sewage treatment plants, Pune Metro Railway, housing-related issues and public transport.
Do you agree that the BRTS was a big failure in Pune? Manymishaps took place on BRTS routes.
No, it is only the media (that thinks so). Actually, people are using BRTS in a big way and the system will get used to the needs of citizens. We are introducing four more routes in the city to provide a link to commuters from different corners of the city. BRTS is saving travel time for passengers. The accident rate has also gone down. Unfortunately, people cross the BRTS route as they lack traffic sense. The Bus Day on November 1 proved that the situation was normal wherever BRTS routes were available for citizens. The travel time was more in Pimpri-Chinchwad and on Nagar road, where no BRTS routes exist. A successfully-run Metro and BRTS is the realistic picture of a futuristic Pune in the next one to two years.
It is being said that PMC fallen short in implementing many JNNURM projects for the city.
This is not correct. Of the 11 projects submitted to JNNURM by the PMC, five have been completed and the remaining six are making due progress. We had launched the pilot BRTS project from Katraj to Hadapsar successfully and have completed four sewage treatment plants, the approach road to Sangamwadi, the Baner suburban underpass. A total of Rs 1,500 crore was spent. The remaining projects — from eco-friendly projects like development of existing Pashan and Katraj lakes and river cleaning to storm water management work and an underpass on Ahmadnagar Road — are in progress. In fact, the PMC and the Thane Municipal Corporation are the only to civic bodies that have completed a total of 20 projects under JNNURM funding.
Why can’t illegal structures in the city stop? Are PMC’s efforts to demolish them adequate enough?
In this year, we could demolish over 25 lakh square feet area of illegal structures in the city, which is equivalent to the figure of last five years. We could do only two to three lakh square feet every year (previously). Our work will continue till people stop erecting illegal structures. I can’t say for sure that political leaders are involved in this. Everybody wants a house and also wants to rent a house. People have greed for having their own flats, leading to more illegal structures. Our drive is also against those who are obstructing the roads in the city. We have limited staff and engineers, but have shown better results (than before). It will take another six months to complete the present demolishing drive.
What about the bio-diversity park report when the DP is yet to be discussed? Is PMC capable of coping with the burden of 28 additional fringe villages within its limits?
The PMC had made a DP of its old limits, including the 23 villages merged in the city limits in 1997. The issue of the new 28 fringe villages to be merged in the PMC will require another DP. Before that, we need to make our regional plan. There is no issue over BDP as the Jain Committee had already submitted its report to the government, in which 4 per cent TDR (Transfer of Development Rights) had been suggested and reservations have been suggested at the zonal level.
Why is the condition of PMC hospitals and maternity homes still pathetic, with no laparoscopy and Caesarean operations possible? Also, there are no CCTV cameras at these hospital.
The PMC has a vacancy list of 120 skilled doctors. We have the equipment, but no personnel can use the equipment for Caesarean or laparoscopy operations. The CCTV cameras issue is one of security, but it also means infringing on the privacy of patients undergoing treatment in PMC hospitals. We need to resolve the issue amicably.
Are PMC schools understaffed?
Manpower shortage in PMC schools is a lie. We have adequate staff, but the number of school dropouts is more. There is no proper monitoring system for the work of teaching staff, like in the Zilla Parishad schools.