February 9, 2021 12:15:34 am
A virtual meeting of the Pune Municipal Corporation’s General Body had to be adjourned on Monday, after opposition parties started protesting and alleged that the meeting was held online despite a state government order to restart in-person GB meetings.
Due to the pandemic, the state government had last year directed all civic bodies in the state to hold only online GB meetings. But the efforts of PMC to hold online GB meetings every month did not yield good results because of technical problems.
With Covid-19 cases falling, the opposition in PMC — led by NCP, Congress, Shiv Sena and MNS — has been demanding that the PMC resume offline GB meetings, but the ruling BJP has turned down the requests, citing no directions from the state government over it.
The BJP wanted to hold an online GB meeting on Monday, with video-conferencing facilities at each ward office so that corporators attend it without any technical problems. Mayor Murlidhar Mohol was to chair the meeting from his office.
But on Monday, the state Disaster Management department sent a written communication about holding GB meetings, with 200-225 corporators and officers of the municipal corporation in attendance. “The state government grants permission to conduct the mentioned meeting. However, you are requested to ensure strict adherence to all Covid-19 protocols regarding social distancing, compulsory wearing of masks, availability of adequate sanitizer as mandated by the state and union governments during the course of the meeting,” read the state government communication.
Meanwhile, the PMC’s virtual GB meeting started as planned but opposition party leaders stormed into the office of the mayor to register their protest over continuing with online meetings despite state government directions to resume offline meetings. The GB meeting was adjourned due to the chaos.
Explaining why the meeting was held online, Mohol said, “There has been no regular offline GB meeting of the PMC for the last 9-10 months due to restrictions imposed by the state government. I had repeatedly written to the chief minister, deputy chief minister, state urban development minister and chief secretary to allow offline GB meeting but there was no response to my communications.”
Mohol said an online meeting was planned on Monday and “it was decided after consulting all party leaders, but the opposition parties disrupted it. This was wrong behaviour on their part.”
The Mayor said the opposition leaders had been urged earlier to request their ministers in the state government to allow offline GB meetings in the PMC, but they didn’t do so and instead, disrupted the online meeting.
He pointed out that the state government decision to hold offline GB meetings was taken on February 8, they same day the PMC’s virtual meeting had already been planned. “The state Urban Development department had imposed restrictions on holding offline GB meetings, but the communication to restart offline meetings was issued by the Disaster Management department, that too only for one day. We are trying to get a clarification on whether it applies to all GB meetings to be conducted from now…,” he said.
“The opposition parties merely carried out a stunt to disrupt the proceedings of the online meeting, which was held as per the rules. The place of meeting cannot be changed at the last minute. It has to be communicated to all elected representatives in advance with notice in the media,” added Mohol.
City NCP chief Chetan Tupe said the ruling BJP in PMC seemed to deliberately not conduct in-person GB meetings so as to “hide something”. “There were directions from the state government to hold offline GB meetings but the BJP continued with the online meeting today. We are protesting against the behaviour of the BJP in PMC,” he said.
Congress leader Ulhas Bagul and Shiv Sena leader Prithviraj Sutar said the GB meeting held on Monday was not conducted in the House despite state government directions. “The ruling BJP wanted to get their issues cleared through online meetings while giving no opportunity to other parties to raise various other city issues,” they said.
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