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THIRTY-five-year-old Suhas Haldankar had not married apparently to devote his life to ensuring better living conditions for the people of his area. The kind of civic activism that he practised, say local residents and his family, probably had no parallels in Pimpri-Chinchwad as he took on the politicians head-on for doing little to alleviate the sufferings of the local residents by ensuring basic civic amenities. Even as the shell-shocked family of the activist remained inconsolable throughout the day — the funeral was slated later in the evening — Shweta Kargotkar, Haldankar’s sister, spoke to this paper, revealing how her brother was being threatened repeatedly for exposing the civic inadequacies in Kharalwadi area. “Whether it was the shoddy condition of public toilet for women, overflowing drainage, bad state of roads or broken footpaths, my brother always drew PCMC’s attention towards it,” said Shweta. Before elections, Shweta said, he had put up a board carrying newspaper cuttings, highlighting the pathetic state of civic amenities. “The board had not gone down well with politicians who were not doing anything for the people. They had threatened by brother…” she said.
Shweta said at the “bal bhavan” run by PCMC, some of the accused were appointed by the civic body. “Through RTI application, my brother found that they were supposed to be guarding the bal bhavan. However, most of them were working for local politicians,” she said. Shweta said that the same people had threatened her brother directly and indirectly. “They used to tell my brother that he should not interfere in their activities or they will deal with him…My brother was also offered money to keep his mouth shut…But he refused to take money. He used to say why should he sell his principles for a few bucks,” recalled Shweta. She added that the atrocious condition of public toilet for women and the state of uncleanliness always bothered her brother. Swapnil Thosar, a local resident, said, “Suhas used to be concerned about the state of civic amenities practically everyday. Several of the articles and photos submitted by him have been published in local Marathi newspapers.”
On Sunday, as the residents observed spontaneous bandh, almost all shops in Kharalwadi downed shutters. Local corporator Geeta Mancharkar said, “Suhas kept me on my toes….Every day, he used to call me to update about the bad condition of a public toilet or a road that had developed potholes. He was an activist at heart…” PCMC Assistant Municipal Commissioner Anna Bodade said, “It is true that Suhas Haldankar used to chase PCMC officials for improving the state of civic amenities in Kharalwadi area.”