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Pardeshi never blinked in war against graft

In 600 days, he got 550 illegal buildings razed, cut corporators down to size

Pune | Published: February 9, 2014 4:05:38 am
A rally to protest Pardeshi’s transfer. A rally to protest Pardeshi’s transfer.

In  his tenure of one year and eight months, outgoing Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Commissioner Shrikar Pardeshi — who was transferred on Friday — ordered the demolition of as many as 550 illegal constructions, including those belonging top NCP politicians. This means, in 600 days he flattened almost one structure a day, including a controversial eight-floor building in Pimpri Camp where past commissioners had feared to tread.

Undeterred by seven threats to life, Pardeshi — who earned the nickname Demolition Man — lodged criminal complaints against 2,100 citizens and builders for raising illegal structures.

The result: in the past six months, “not an inch” of illegal construction has been reported from any corner of the industrial town. If illegal constructions became passé during Pardeshi’s tenure, corrupt practices in civic corridors too were curbed in what officials describe as a ruthless manner.

Several expensive projects sought to be pushed by the civic standing committee with an eye on hefty kickbacks were rejected with the contempt they deserved. Though the civic standing committee members adjourned meeting after meetings to force him to toe their line, Pardeshi would have none of it as he broke the back of the corporator-contractor nexus, which for years had milked the civic body of crores, officials said, pointing out that the civic chief succeeded in putting an end to “contractor raj” in PCMC corridors.

As many as 1,200 officials and employees, who had remained in one department for years and allegedly took advantage of their position, were shuffled in a phased manner.
Twenty-seven employees found guilty of dereliction of duty were suspended. Departmental inquiries were launched against 40 employees and four were removed from civic services. YCM Hospital, which had become a den of corruption, was cleaned up of the moles.

To improve quality of works, Pardeshi set up a quality control department besides initiating third party audit of development projects. To top it all, Pardeshi brought in SARATHI helpline, which reduced the role of corporators to almost zero. Citizens no longer have to rush to corporators to get choked nullah cleared, a tattered road or ruptured pipeline repaired. They can just call the helpline number and get their work done in less than 24 hours. In the past five months, over one lakh citizens have benefited by SARATHI, which has drawn national attention what with top officials from across the country descending in Pimpri-Chinchwad to have a closer look at the e-governance system.

All these measures — unheard of in PCMC’s three-decade-old history — brought together scores of citizens, activists and politicians at Pimpri Chowk on Saturday morning to protest against Pardeshi’s transfer. They blamed Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar for shifting an honest official.

Though not in great numbers, the protesters shouted slogans against the state government on the Pune-Mumbai highway. Some passers-by even joined the protest.

In an unprecedented show of unity, the BJP, Shiv Sena, MNS, RPI and the Aam Aadmi Party joined hands in a bid to get the transfer orders of an “honest and committed” officer cancelled. They vowed to continued their agitation till the government takes back the transfer order.

Mincing no words, BJP leader Eknath Pawar said though they had opposed Pardeshi’s drive against illegal constructions, they backed him for his efforts to put a halt to rampant corruption in PCMC. “It is because of Pardeshi’s no-nonsense approach that corruption in the civic body ended in the past one and half years,” he said, blaming the deputy CM for getting him transferred as he refused to bow down to their demands.

Sena leader Seema Savle said CM Prithviraj Chavan gave in to NCP pressure tactics. “It is clear that Pawar put pressure on Chavan to get Pardeshi transferred. During his tenure, Pardeshi had halted NCP’s bid to loot PCMC treasury; that made NCP bosses uneasy,” she said.

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