Last week, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena corporator Sandeep Deshpande wrote to the assistant municipal commissioner of the locality he represents, threatening to kidnap him and extract pothole repairs from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation as ransom.
In a letter addressed to Assistant Commissioner of G-North ward Ramakant Biradar, Deshpande said that he issued the threat as his constituency’s monsoon-related problems remain neglected.
How bad is the condition of roads in your ward? How many complaints have you received from people?
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Ever since the rains hit last month, I have received around 60-70 complaints from local residents. The complaints are not only about potholes but also about storm water drains and roadside drains being clogged with garbage, causing waterlogging in areas near Shivaji Park and Gokhale Road. There were several complaints about fallen trees as well which have not been cleared for many days. Moreover, the repair work of around 30-40 potholes the BMC claims to have done is faulty and came off the day after they were filled. The BMC doesn’t have any permanent solutions, which is a worrying sign for the entire city and not just my ward.
What other steps did you take to redress citizens’ grievances before you decided to threaten a civic official?
I received repeated complaints from people who are affected by potholes and recurring waterlogging troubles. I complained to the assistant engineer (maintenance) of the ward and had approached the gardens department as well. However, despite following up with the officials over the phone on a daily basis, there has been no improvement in the situation and people are still suffering.
Do you justify threatening to kidnap a civic official, considered to be a criminal offence as per the Indian Penal Code?
I’m not a professional kidnapper and I definitely don’t support threatening anyone. But there was no other option available and I was forced to take such a step out of frustration. I am answerable to the people of my ward. I had no answer to their repeated queries. Finally, on Saturday I decided to write this letter to the assistant municipal commissioner.
Why didn’t you take up the matter with the chief engineer of the roads department or other senior civic officials?
Until last year, there were separate contractors appointed by the roads department who were responsible for pothole repairs. However, this year, there are no such contractors and there is no accountability.
While the new roads are in the defect liability period and the contractors will tend to them, the old roads are still the responsibility of the G north ward. My letter was thus addressed to the assistant commissioner of the ward to point out various monsoon-related issues on all of the 17-18 roads in my ward. Even the trenches that MTNL had dug up to lay utility cables have not been filled in a few places and other footpaths have been covered with paver blocks in a shoddy manner which has left the surface uneven and difficult to walk on.
On Monday, I visited several roads including Gokhale Road, Shivaji Park, the area near the Siddhivinayak temple and Khed Galli with Ramakant Biradar, the assistant commissioner of G-North ward. I pointed out around 30-40 potholes which need repair on an urgent basis. While the repair work has started, the BMC has to ensure that the work will hold this time.
Is your letter only on issues in your ward or are you taking a stand on the condition of roads across the city?
I have taken up the initiative to focus on the issues of my ward alone. However, other corporators who are similarly receiving complaints from the people of their ward can also follow suit to ensure that the BMC takes the issues seriously.