Updated: August 27, 2020 1:41:36 pm
Nagpur Municipal Commissioner Tukaram Mundhe, whose tenure as the civic chief was an extremely stormy one, was transferred to the Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran as its member secretary on Wednesday.
Mundhe’s transfer came a day after he tested positive for Covid-19, and he is expected to stay on for the quarantine period of 14 days before leaving the city.
Apart from making headlines for several reasons, Mundhe’s tenure of seven months was also among the shortest tenures of a bureaucrat Nagpur has ever seen.
Mundhe had assumed charge on January 28 and had locked horns with the ruling BJP almost immediately, when he had stopped the tender process of works for development projects, citing inadequate fund availability with Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC). Mundhe had later also slashed the budget for these works.
The tussle continued even after the pandemic broke out, with Mundhe exercising all his powers, leading to an increased level of disquiet among corporators, including those representing the Congress. The BJP, led by Mayor Sandeep Joshi, and even Congress leaders, accused him of adopting a dictatorial approach to administering the city’s affairs and completely sidelining people’s representatives like them.
Mundhe, however, continued to take a tough stance and registered an offence against Congress corporator Nitin Sathawane for allegedly obstructing the NMC’s operation to quarantine hundreds of residents from a ‘hotspot’ locality nearly three months ago.
The move drew the ire of both Congress and BJP leaders in the NMC, who held a joint press and condemned Mundhe’s “dictatorial style of functioning and holding the people’s representatives in contempt”.
Joshi subsequently convened a general body meeting of the NMC, which Mundhe left midway on the first day, alleging a “personal attack” by some members. He, however, attended the remaining part of the five-day long debate over management of Covid-19 in the city, among other issues, and received a lot of flak from several members.
The city also witnessed an agitation by two Congress leaders, MLA Vikas Thakre and senior corporators Prafulla Gudadhe, against what they claimed was “authoritarian corona locking down” of certain localities that actually had few patients.
A new controversy arose two months ago, with Joshi and Union Minister and Nagpur MP Nitin Gadkari moving the Prime Minister’s Office over Mundhe “illegally” functioning as the chief executive officer of the Nagpur Smart and Sustainable City Development Corporation Limited (NSSCDCL). They also accused him of authorising “illegal” financial transactions in NSSCDCL.
At a meeting convened by then NSSCDCL Chairman Pravin Pardeshi on July 6, Mundhe was asked to relinquish charge as CEO.
All this while, Mundhe interacted with the public through Facebook, often refuting allegations against him and also citing the praise NMC had earned from a central government team for Covid-19 management.
He also received a lot of support from many residents of Nagpur, with his supporters running a signature campaign and often coming together to raise banners and slogans in his support, particularly when the NMC general body meeting was on at a city auditorium.
Recently, Mundhe had a run-in with local traders over his direction to them to get tested, along with their staff, at their own expense. He had warned them that they won’t be allowed to open shops till then. The traders has observed a bandh against the diktat.
As late as last week, Mayor Joshi constituted four committees comprising corporators from all parties and one NMC official each to “find out the truth” behind the civic body’s claim in an advertisement that 1,876 beds for Covid-19 patients were available in the city.
“Against Mundhe’s claim, his Assistant Commissioner Ram Joshi had said that only 575 beds were available. So, these committees have checked facts and we will present their findings on Thursday,” Joshi told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, of late, Nagpur city has seen a spurt in Covid-19 cases, with the death toll crossing 800. On Wednesday, Nagpur district recorded the highest daily tally of 1,270 positive cases, 1,031 of it from NMC limits, and 45 deaths, 35 of which were from the city. Overall, the district has 23,495 positive cases and 859 deaths, of which the city’s share is 17,964 cases and 648 deaths, respectively.
Responding to the news of Mundhe’s transfer, Joshi said, “Unfortunately, he has been transferred within only seven months. We had no personal enmity with him… but the only expectation was that he should work by taking people’s representatives into confidence. But his posturing that only he understood everything and others did little, and his mi karel so kayda (a law unto himself) attitude, was very unfortunate.”
He added, “We had made no demand for his transfer. The state is ruled by the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress and they only will be able to cite the reasons. In any case, 15 transfers in 15 years is unfortunate. If the role of people’s representatives was irrelevant in a democracy, this whole system (of governance) wouldn’t have come up. He should take this into his stride… I wish him all the best for the future.”
Despite several attempts, Mundhe couldn’t be reached for comment.
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