Citizens' Issues
Mumbai must look beyond potholes issue, says Ajoy Mehta
Ajoy Mehta, the Commissioner of Municipal Corp of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) or BrihanMumbai Municipal Corp (BMC) was invited by the Mumbai Press Club to present his vision on making Mumbai a World Class City. Haven’t we heard this line for more than two decades? Is there any wonder that his vision came out practically only through the question and answers?
 
Almost immediately, after he began to talk, promptly he said that there is nothing more important to Mumbai than the Coastal Road. 
 
He also said that BMC cannot be sticking to only potholes issue and must look beyond. While most of the question hovered around punishing the defaulting contractors and tenders greeting ready for fresh works on road contracts, defaulting contractors will be criminally liable for poor quality of roads. He also said that MCGM had located some 350 chronic pothole locations and will be addressing them to target zero potholes in the coming years.
 
MCGM is now planning to recycle wastewater for gardening and flushing. The Municipal Corp is also planning four hospitals in the suburban Mumbai even as it is concentrating on providing primary treatment, Mr Mehta said.
 
He concurred when pointed out that with 95% of population walking on the roads, their safety and comfort was being compromised by keeping footpaths in appalled state. Until being pointed out that debris from public works encroached the footpath, he held the view that it was encroached by roadside vendors.
 
On the whole, the Municipal Commissioner had hardly placed his vision of making Mumbai into a global city.
 
(Sudhir Badami, an IIT Bombay graduate in Civil & Structural Engineering is a Transportation Analyst. He has extensively worked in planning and design of Civil and Structural Works including tower building structures, stacks and process columns as well as flexibility analysis of piping systems and challenging erection planning of structures and equipment. He was on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and MMRDA’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai.)

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COMMENTS

Mrunal K. Asher

2 days ago

Very much disappointing comments! We can look beyond the road potholes if BMC is doing the adequate things to keep smooth roads with no potholes, adequate pavements for the common men to walk comfortably & safely with cleanliness around. Years after years, BMC has been failing on this count with wrong appointment of contracters and the money wasted. The Chief can't turn away his responsibility and talk like a typical politician! Loosing the respect...

Ramesh B Mhadlekar

3 days ago

Tomorrow he will say we should look beyond corruption .

Silloo Marker

3 days ago

If Municipal Commisioners would try to walk around the city, one small area at least once a week, they would soon know the ground realities. But IAS babus wouldn't risk getting their shoes soiled by stepping out of their AC vehicles and perhaps straight into a pile of shit, which is what we often face if we try to park in the commercial centre of Mumbai Meri Jaan. The coastal road is being touted as the solution to all ills but is actually being pushed by the big-builder lobby which is now focusing on the far suburbs to set up luxury condos. How else will the crorepatis buying those fancy homes travel fast enough to come to work in South Bombay? After all, election funding is largely done by the builders and they do want their pound of flesh. It is a win-win situation for the government, the BMC, private engineers who will get those huge contracts and the builders. Who cares about the environmental damage and the loss of livelihood of the small fisherman dependant on the coastal waters?

Mahesh Soneji

3 days ago

Sir, everyone, all Mumbai kar wish to certainly look beyond potholes but BMC unfortunately could not bring such fortunes to them. Trust and fervently hope, it will happen soon.

Reliance Jio Money to launch merchant app from December 5
 To enable digital transactions, especially among small merchants, Reliance Industries on Thursday announced it was launching next week its Jio-Money Merchant Solutions.
 
"To enable digital transactions, merchants, especially small merchants, are an important component of our economy. To fuel their transactions, Jio is working to empower Indian merchants by building a digital retail ecosystem, which we are calling Jio-Money Merchant Solutions," said Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited, in an address to stakeholders at RIL's Navi Mumbai office.
 
"Starting December 5, every merchant can download the Jio-Money Merchant Application," he added.
 
Ambani said this will enable digital transactions of all types, whether they be at mandis, small shops, restaurants, railway ticket counters, for bus and mass transit and even for person-to-person money transfers.
 
"Customers can use their JioMoney wallets to pay merchants from their bank accounts, and merchants can use the Jio-Money Merchant App to accept these payments directly into their bank accounts," he said.
 
Using the JioMoney Merchant App, merchants can also make supplier payments, transfer money between his bank account and use digital petty cash. 
 
"JioMoney is focused on signing up over 10 million small merchant retailers in the coming weeks across 17,000 towns and four lakh villages. With this, the JioMoney ecosystem will be a committed and enthusiastic partner for the smooth implementation of our Prime Minister's game-changing vision of creating a digitally-enabled and strong Indian economy," Ambani said.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

Simple Indian

4 days ago

Instead of allowing private firms like Reliance Industries or PayTM use the PM's picture prominently in the advertisements of their products, the Govt ought to ban this practice, as it legitimizes and adds credibility to the products/services offered by these firms. On the one hand, the Govt wants to penalize celebrities for endorsing products which may be dubious or which make unsubstantiated claims, and on the other the Prime Minister allows his own picture to be used in advertisements by private sector. This is hypocrisy of the highest order and must be stopped.

RTI activist Anil Galgali explains how to use the Act effectively for social good
Successful activism requires the use of multiple acts and strategies to achieve the goal of obtaining relevant information quickly and using it for the good of society. That was the message from Anil Galgali, an RTI activist whose prolific work, using information gleaned from government sources and backed by authenticated documents, has repeatedly made media headlines and exposé the misuse of power, corruption and diversion of funds by government officers and politicians. Mr Galgali generously shared his modus operandi with Moneylife Foundation members at a talk titled "Some Tips to Success in RTI on civic and infrastructure issues that affect us" on Wednesday.
 
One interesting observation was that filing appeals to under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, is time consuming. Instead, he has two suggestions. The first, is to take the opportunity to inspect documents, under section 4 of the Act, which allows the person filing the application to meet RTI officials and persuade them to part with the information, or collect authenticated photocopies on the spot. It easily eliminates the 30 days period under the Act to respond to a query and obviates the need to file an appeal. He also suggested that filing a fresh application, that is differently worded, often works better than an appeal. Sometimes activists themselves are not able to frame their query well leading to a lack of response, he said. Sometimes a recalcitrant information officer may have been transferred and a new official will look at a fresh application differently. The long pendency of cases at the appeal stage had made appeals less effective, he said. "Merely filing application may not give you relevant information. Sometimes, you need to visit the office from where you are seeking information and enquire about the status of your RTI application. This method has proved to be beneficial for me over the years", he said. 
 
 
He was also a strong votary of using mechanisms such as the Lok Shahi Din, to seek redress, when information was being deliberately denied or suppressed. 
 
Mr Galgali, who is a freelance journalist since 1994 as well as Editor of Agnishila, a monthly magazine, published in Hindi shared his experiences of using RTI Act to obtain relevant information from the authorities.
 
Using RTI, Mr Galgali had brought to the fore issues related with social environment and especially those close to the common man's heart. Through RTI, he has exposed several mischiefs played by various authorities like BrihanMumbai Municipal Corp (BMC), MMRDA, Mumbai Metro and Mumbai University. 
 
In one case, he filed an RTI application in April 2015, to expose how the BMC spent Rs1.70 crore on hiring retired officers as officer on special duty (OSD) and consultants. According to the RTI activist, by appointing and giving extensions to these officials, the BMC Commissioner had flouted the norms. He said, "In a special order passed by the Court in the Dr Jagganath Dhone v/s Government of Maharashtra, on 14 January 2010, the Court had directed to make such appointments but only after getting the necessary permission from the Government. However, the then BMC Commissioner, without taking any permission from the Government, made sure that these 40 officers are appointed." 
 
 
Mr Galgali says he received very positive reply from the present Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, who has now cancelled appointments of OSD and consultants in BMC. 
 
In another case in September 2016, the RTI activist exposed how Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), India's largest private sector company owe a whopping Rs1,576.90 crore as additional premium charges to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) as a lease-holder of two plots at the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai. 
 
RIL, has, however, said it is waiting for further communication from MMRDA as there was a court stay for almost five years on construction on plot no C/64. A report from The Hindu quoted RIL spokesperson as saying, “MMRDA had recognised the force majeure with regards to Plot Number C/64, as there was a court stay on construction between October 2007 and March 2012. MMRDA, in the last authority meeting, decided to appoint a committee and we are awaiting further communication from it on the same.” 
 

Mr Galgali also used the RTI to point out lacunae in the Mumbai University as well. In one case, he pointed towards foreign tours undertaken by several Vice-Chancellors across Maharashtra using public funds. In another case, Mr Galgali procured information about Mumbai University's VC Dr Sanjay Deshmukh's failure to clear LLB examination. Before being appointed as vice chancellor of Mumbai University, Dr Deshmukh had appeared for LLB examination, which he could not clear, the information procured by Mr Galgali revealed. 
 
Earlier in January 2016, the RTI activist, pointed out how a land admeasuring 2,000 Sq Mtrs had been allotted to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s member of Parliament (MP) and yester year actress Hema Malini for a pittance Rs70,000 (@Rs35 per Sq Mtrs) against its current market value in crores of rupees. Mr Galgali sought intervention from Maharashtra Chief Minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis in the matter, while expressing surprise on the intentions of the Government to allot land on the basis of rates in 1976 rather than the current ready reckoner rates. 
 
"During our meeting, the Maharashtra CM has assured to look into similar matters as well. Hope soon, the state government takes back its land that is lying vacant for development purposes," Mr Galgali says.
 
Since the implementation of RTI Act in 2005, Maharashtra has witnessed 12 deaths and 24 assaults on activists. When asked, if he feels threatened while procuring information under RTI on several 'sensitive' issues, Mr Galgali says, "Ever since I have been using RTI, I never received any threat nor faced any intimidation from anyone. But this is how life is. Some people tried to bribe me through advertisement in my magazine. Nevertheless, I told them, ours is a small publication, whose turnover is lesser than the advertisements they were proposing. We rejected it. In my personal opinion, you need two hands for clapping. I may be wrong. But this may answer why there are attacks on some RTI activists."
 
He also advised RTI activists to be cautious and ensure that their work is done in public interest and not to push an agenda.
 
Like other effective RTI activists, Mr Galgali also expressed concern at the growing trend among politicians and bureaucrats to tarnish reputation of activists and accuse them of having ulterior motives. "I agree that there are few people, who may be misusing the RTI Act. One person even asked a query in over 6,500 words, which is quite huge for any public information officer (PIO) to respond in 30 days. But then we need to educate people on using RTI Act properly to get desired information and then using alternate forums, like the Lok Shahi Din or Lokayukt office, to take the matter to its conclusion," Mr Galgali, concluded.
 
Few days ago, Mr Galgali, using information obtained through RTI, revealed how Maharashtra's former minister Eknath Khadse has not paid the rent arrears worth Rs15.5 lakh for using the government bungalow, after stepping down as minister in June 2016. He says, "A minister can use his official residence free for a period of 15 days, from the date that he ceases to be a minister. After that upon obtaining permission from the Government, he can retain the residence or bungalow for three more months on a payment of Rs25 per square foot. After three months, this charge is doubled to Rs50 per sq ft. However, it appears, neither the minister nor officials, who allowed Mr Khadse to stay in the bungalow, are aware about these provisions."
 
An interesting observation that Mr Galgali made in this connection was that MLAs, bureaucrats and corporators are often unaware of the rules and GRs issued from time to time; consequently, they are sometimes caught on the wrong foot without meaning to violate the law. This is often the case when they refuse to vacate government bungalows after their term. Even here, the more savvy ones quickly pay up and avoid embarrassment in the media. But Mr Galgali's point was that the government itself ought to spend some time in educating and guiding elected representatives on their rights and responsibilities, especially when it came to perks and privileges. "Not all politicians are corrupt, some want to do the correct thing but don't know the rules and GRs", he said.  
 
Mr Galgali then replied to several questions asked by the audience and also offered his help in providing specific guidance on some cases.
 

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COMMENTS

Ramesh B Mhadlekar

3 days ago

Anil Sir, it is easy to expose MCGM because they provide you information, I am sure you will not be able to extract information from RBI in similar matter of recruiting retired officials through favoritism. Please try the same from RBI and then you will realize that procuring information from MCGM is easy.

Praveen Sakhuja

5 days ago

I congratulate Anil for his success stories. I counter it with my experience with ministry of commerce and an autonomous body under it known as Export Inspection Council. Instead of provide information those declared me as vindictive, and stopped provide me any information after I exposed illegal appointment of Director arranged byonistry as god to export Inspection Council. Ministry extends full support to him by denying the information by stating No Records, No information exists, it is voluminous thus cannot be provide, if inspection is allowed either it is deferred a day prior to fixed date or documents are so arranged that those or irrelevant to the information sought. So how can you say that RTI is a tool. Appels to CIC are also irrelevant as IC also supports respondents and advice applicant to approach HighbCourt. Is there any remedybto it?

REPLY

Ramesh B Mhadlekar

In Reply to Praveen Sakhuja 3 days ago

I have been fighting against illegal recruitments in RBI which is similar to Harayan Teacher Scam of Chauthals or IOB recruitment Scam. The RBI has absorbed private canteen boys working with private canteen run by union leaders and who are near and dear ones of the union leader who are goon.The recruitment is vide an private agreement and contrary to various Supreme court decision and also it is against an decision which RBI itself had got in its favour from SC., wherein SC said that the Private canteen boys cannot be absorbed or treated as RBI employee. It can happen only in India that RBI which proclaims itself to be having honest and dedicated officials is nothing but a drama. I have RTI documents proving the Deputy governor and Executive Director corrupt .

NITIN PATIL

5 days ago

Seems I lost on a very informative lecture as I could not make it to the venue on that day !
All the same many Thanks for providing the gist .

SRINIVAS SHENOY

5 days ago

The talk by Shri Galgali was regarding the practical side of usage of the RTI Act. I was personally not aware that it is futile to appeal and that a fresh new application should be preferred.

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