As 44,000 voters gear up for the elections in Kirkee cantonment on January 11, many of them are confused whether to vote or not. The civic conscious voters say, “better to not vote for those who don’t care.” The anger among residents of Kirkee and even Range Hills is palpable. The residents accuse the Kirkee Cantonment Board and its members of “doing absolutely nothing” in the last six years vis-a-vis improving basic civic infrastructure.
Voters say the cantonment board and its members took citizens for granted and showed no will in implementing new projects or improving basic civic amenities. Be it roads, sanitation, cleanliness, water availability or drainage system, residents say the board has failed on all fronts.
The Kirkee Citizens Forum, which is the only citizens’ organization battling with the board for years, had also knocked on the doors of the President of India. “Kirkee is in a complete mess…. go to any corner of the cantonment, you will only find garbage and bad smell. In comparison to neighbouring civic bodies like PMC and PCMC, the cantonment board has completely failed,” says Pandurang Garsund, head of the Kirkee Citizens Forum. “We have appealed to citizens to think before casting votes. If the members promise that they will work for development of Kirkee and ensure a clean and green cantonment area, only then should they vote,” said Garsund.
The correspondent on Wednesday found that the anger of the voters was not without reason. The moment you step into Kirkee, you come across grime and garbage. Choked gutters, broken roads, roads without dividers, roads too narrow for two vehicles to pass, vehicles parked indiscriminately, hawkers crowding several places, food or fruits dumped on the roads, Kirkee seems to have got everything wrong.
“This state of affairs has persisted for years. The lack of concerted efforts to make Kirkee a better place to live in, is there for everyone to see,” says Rajan Pillay, an activist. The main Kirkee bazaar where people arrive from far and near, including Pimpri-Chinchwad and Bhosari, is in disarray. The stink at the bazaar starts right from the entrance where people sell ‘vada paos’. In the bazaar area, the vehicles struggle for parking space and quarrels are the order of the day. The biggest problem for the shoppers is the ubiquitous cows. They can be found all over the main bazaar and even on internal roads. “In the bazaar area, they some times go wild which is dangerous for us. My friend was once hurt when a cow ran into him,” said K Dhanvate from Pimpri-Chinchwad.
The Forum accuses KCB of wasting money on several projects which were never completed. “Near the PMPML bus stop, the KCB wanted to construct cement arches to prevent heavy vehicles on Dr Ambedkar Road. Both the cement concrete pillars have been constructed. But the project has been left half. It has been lying in the same state for months. This speaks volumes of the lackadaisical attitude of the cantonment board,” says Garsund.
Pillay says the hockey stadium is still not fully operational for sportspersons. Garsund says the stadium project is incomplete and the KCB has run out of funds. Vishwas J, an autorickshaw driver, says, “I want to vote, but looking at the condition all over Kirkee, I think why should I?”
Ravindran, a student, says, “If you visit any park of KCB, it seems to be incomplete…there is nothing other than trees.”
Garsund says in a couple of the parks, goons have a free run in the evening. Another voter, Ajay Gade, says, “The people of Kirkee should raise their voice, this they can do by electing the right candidates.” Mangesh Theval, a long-time resident, says, “The state of the roads is not up to the mark. The concept of road dividers and speed-breakers seems to be alien to the board.”
The state of sanitation speaks for itself. “One of the public toilets has been taken over by a political worker in Gadi Adda area. He stays there with his family and the KCB has been unable to move him. As a result, people have to use adjoining toilet blocks,” says Garsund.
Several old houses in Kirkee area are in a collapsible state. Activists say a big tragedy is waiting to happen. “Since Kirkee is a military land, nobody can own the property here. Either there are leasehold properties or one of those old grand bungalows. Under the leasehold property right, the land is leased to the owner for 30 years. He can build a bungalow or a builder can build flats on the property, but it does not belong to them. Under the other plan, the old bungalows belong to the owner, but they cannot carry out any change. So, they are in bad shape. Some citizens have made changes by violating the law,” says Garsund.
At KCB office, none of the employees were ready to provide CEO JKS Chauhan’s mobile number. One junior engineer said, “The CEO is out of station…his PA got married yesterday, don’t call the PA.” When office superintendent Suja James was contacted, she said the CEO was out of station and he would speak in the evening. When contacted in the evening, Chauhan’s cell was switched off.
KCB vice-president Manish Anand, who is contesting again, said, “Many things are yet to be done…I will be completing those projects in right earnest in the next tenure.” As for the incomplete arch project, Anand said, “The KCB engineers are responsible for the waste of money.” However, a junior engineer said, “All these decisions are taken by the board, we only implement them.”
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