By: Manoj More
During his much-talked about tenure, Shrikar Pardeshi introduced the SARATHI helpline, which drew national attention. Top officials from 11 states descended on Pimpri-Chinchwad to have a closer look at the system that had been lapped up by residents who had long been at the mercy of corporators.
The Punjab government even rushed the chief minister’s adviser with an objective to implement it back home. However, despite the rave reviews, the “public-oriented” work done under SARATHI does not seem to find favour with Municipal Commissioner Rajiv Jadhav’s administration, believe civic activists and citizens.
The PCMC general body meeting’s recent decision to provide information about complaints or suggestions made under SARATHI to corporators has not gone down well with the residents of Pimpri-Chinchwad. The popularity of SARATHI can be gauged from the fact that over 150 complaints or suggestions are still received on any given day.
“My father-in-law had made a complaint under SARATHI during Pardeshi’s tenure. The local corporator learnt about it from the officials and then threatened him. When we complained to Pardeshi, he warned officials not to pass on information to anybody. After that my father-in-law made complaints under SARATHI without any fear,” said Sunita, a homemaker from Bhosari.
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If the PCMC started providing information about complaints to corporators, people would stop approaching SARATHI, she added.
Strong reactions like this are coming from people across Pimpri-Chinchwad. “PCMC under no circumstances should provide details about complaints made under SARATHI to corporators,” said Suresh Pujari, a transporter from Nigdi.
“This is absolutely wrong… SARATHI came into being so that residents don’t have to remain at the mercy of corporators and their whims and fancies. Now this will be again going back to corporator raj…” said R Sathyan, a retired income-tax officer from Pradhikaran.
The Rajiv Jadhav administration, however, said the name of the complainant and his or her contact number would not be provided to the corporators. “We will only provide the nature of the complaint…details about the identity of the complainant will not be shared with the corporators,” said the civic chief.
Being elected representatives, said Jadhav, corporators had a right to know what was happening in their ward. When pointed out that it could mean violation of the Whistleblowers Act, he said: “We will go through the provisions of the Act and take a call.” Sangvi corporator Prashant Shitole, who had moved the proposal in the general body meeting, said: “A corporator is entitled to know what is lacking or what is being done in his ward. Otherwise, why do you want a corporator? Let the administration and the people decide everything…”
Shitole said the corporators were only seeking the “nature of complaints” made and not details about the complainant. RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said PCMC could provide information about the complaint, but should not provide details about the complainant.
While Shrikar Pardeshi was not available for comment, officials close to him said a similar proposal was approved by the PCMC’s Law Committee during his tenure. After that the corporators had met Pardeshi and urged him to provide details about the complaints made. He had, however, rejected their demand.
“Pardeshi had then argued that there should be independent access to residents bereft of any political meddling. If a citizen’s complaint goes back to a politician, everything will again assume political overtones… He wanted to strictly follow the RTI and the whistleblowers Act,” said a senior civic official.
Civic activists believe Jadhav should invoke his special powers. “The civic chief should strike down the general body’s resolution…” said activist Raju Jawalkar.