While raising important questions on the city’s water and drainage issues at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) general body meeting, the last thing that Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) corporator Dilip Lande expected was for civic officials to stare at their phone screens, checking their WhatsApp messages. Worse, for fellow corporators to walk out of the hall when they got a call, even as the meeting was on.
Infuriated with this behaviour, the corporator tabled a notice of motion at the floor of the house on Monday to install jammers in the heritage hall, where meetings are conducted, to restrict the usage of mobile phones. Though shot down by the ruling Sena-BJP alliance in the meeting, Lande says he will keep introducing the proposal till the ruling parties are forced to take up the issue.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Lande said, “Here I am talking about important issues that affect citizens and the officials are staring into their phones, checking their WhatsApp, Twitter or Facebook messages constantly. This is what the ruling parties have reduced the corporation to, where no one is bothered about real issues affecting Mumbaikars.”A member of the standing committee earlier, Lande is now a part of the improvements committee of BMC.
A jammer is an instrument used to prevent cellular phones from receiving signals from the base stations. The monthly general body meeting brings all the 277 corporators of the city under the same platform to discuss important issues and proposals. The meeting is presided over by the city mayor and has an additional municipal commissioner as a representative from the administration.
The hall is located on the first floor of the huge building located at Fort. With multiple entries from all side, the huge semi-circular hall with stained glass is closed during meetings with security personnel manning the doors. While the Sena-BJP, the ruling parties, sit on the right side of the hall consisting wooden benches, the opposition occupies the left side with the group leaders seated in front. Lande usually occupies a position towards the end of the hall.
“Sometimes corporators forget to turn their phones on silent. Hearing a ringtone in the middle of our talks distracts us from the issues,” Lande added.
The corporator from L ward (which includes Kurla) said that he has been noticing this addiction to phones among officials and corporators for the past few months in the house. He further said that authorities displayed similar behaviour even during condolence meets held for well-known personalities.
The MNS corporator has been quite vocal about his criticism towards the administration. In December 2014, he had written a letter to the municipal commissioner claiming that BMC officials are not using Marathi as an official language for communication in the civic body.
Stating that the jammers will affect both professional and personal communication, the ruling parties rejected it on Monday. Trushna Vishwasrao, Leader of the House and a senior Sena corporator said, “As a corporator, we are expected to remain in touch with the citizens constantly. There are several issues that have to be addressed in a day. Installing jammers will completely restrict the communication and we are against this.” Lande meanwhile sent his photograph for the story to this newspaper through WhatsApp.