WITH THE municipal corporation elections slated in February-March 2017, Pune is set to witness a ‘grand Ganeshotsav’ this year, with politicians leaving no stone unturned to use the festive platform to reach out to people and kickstart their election campaign.
The city has witnessed a 10-15 per cent surge in number of mandals this year, with more than 1,000 applications waiting to be processed by PMC on the eve of festivities.
“We have given permissions to 778 mandals in the city with 177 of them having been permitted to display welcome arches within their premises. Last year, the number of mandals were 1,840 and this year, it is set to cross more than 2,000-2,500 with many unregistered mandals making their presence felt in the city in almost every lane,” said deputy commissioner, encroachment wing, PMC Sandhya Gagre.
Gagre said that her team has surveyed many areas and there are several small mandals that have been set up by aspirants without necessary permissions and action would be initiated against them September 6 onwards.
The Pune Police department has stated a figure of 4,419 mandals for Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and the Cantonment areas but many mandals in PMC and PCMC have been set up without the mandatory registrations.
The mandals this year are also seeing some grand celebrations, courtesy local politicians pumping in money for the utsav in their constituencies.
“While every year, we have the usual lighting and celebrations, this year we have the support of our local corporators and we have been able to put up a theme —spreading the message of going eco-friendly. We were able to buy a clay idol as well,” said a member of a ganesh mandal in the city.
With patronage coming from local corporators or aspirants, the mandals in lanes have posters of the aspirants ahead of elections. “This year, with the four-ward system, many candidates have their photos at these mandals or in the lane. This is the best time to make your presence felt,” observed a worker from a political party.
However, for those not taking the mandatory permission, the encroachment wing will initiate action against such mandals. The encroachment wing has observed a surge in number of mandals but is waiting for an official registration figure. “There are nearly 3,000 registered mandals and many unregistered ones as well. We will wait till September 6 and then action will be initiated,” said Gagre.
The same is the case with the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation. “While the registered number is nearly 400, the actual figures are different as there are definitely more mandals this year,” said a senior official from the PCMC. He said they have to take permissions from the police and if found to be flouting, action will be initiated.
The mandals have to pay a deposit of Rs 1,000 and pay Rs 10 per sq feet depending on the area they have occupied and get a NOC from the police for occupying the road. “The regular mandals are fast with their paper work but there are many new mandals that have been formed that are unaware of the mandatory regulations. They have put up the mandals without the permission,” said Gagare.
With more mandals, the city is set to witness a major traffic problem and residents and activists are also worried about the noise pollution levels.
“We have noticed that there are more mandals this year and there is political pressure to allow these mandals to operate. During festivities, there should not be any inconvenience caused to people and action should be taken against illegal mandals. Ahead of elections, all political parties are using the festive platform to their advantage and in turn, leading to the law and order problem. During visarjan too, there are a lot of violations and this needs to be checked,” said activist Vijay Kumbhar.
He said that more youngsters are being roped in to prepare for elections this year with a four-ward system in place giving way to more aspirants.