December 20, 2008,
Aired a report on the how without much debate, discussions or deliberations NMMC general body and standing committee meetings had been sanctioning proposals for erecting toilets in Navi Mumbai – most of which were on questionable locations hinting at that the corporators-contractors-officials nexus was at work again. The report also underlined on the need to have a maintenance policy for existing public toilets and urinals if at all NMMC wanted to accomplish its goal of a defecation free city. Our report triggered action as the issue was discussed in length at the weekly Standing Committee meet. Before we bring to you what transpired in the Standing Committee meet, first a quick flashback of our last weekend expose on public toilets.
28 NMMC proposals to construct public toilets and urinals in Navi Mumbai, 13 of which were approved in one of the recent Standing Committee meets. These 13 proposals to make public toilets and urinals, that were approved earlier by the NMMC general, for Rs. 2 Crore 34 Lacs 42 Thousand 209 was approved in a couple of minutes without one word of debate or discussion by any member of the Standing Committee. After this Standing Committee did a survey of the locations where NMMC has proposed the new toilets under its toilet vision and this survey uncovered a scam in the name of public toilets.
Our first stop was NMMC decision to build a public toilet at the Hotel Tunga side of Sector 30, Vashi ahead of the subway. In a time period of 5 months NMMC has awarded the tender for building the toilet here to M/s Sandeep Construction for Rs. 13, 33, 208. However, a visit showed that the spot for the proposed toilet lies at center of three plush malls, one hotel and Vashi Railway Station – all public places that have public toilets on one side and the posh Sector 17 on the other side. It makes one wonder why NMMC wants to build a toilet at such a spot? Well, it didn’t take us long to find the answer – adjacent to the proposed toilet spot is a recently established illegal settlement of hutments. Locals of the hutments did not hesitate to inform the local corporator of the area Dashrath Bhagat had pressurized NMMC to not demolish the illegal hutments And that the local corporator has also promised to enroll them on the voters list. So clearly, the proposed toilet is being built only to facilitate the vote bank of a corporator in the form of the illegal settlement in Sector 30, Vashi. This was just one location conducted a survey of all the other 13 locations, out of which most locations seemed to be questionable. These locations included, the toilet coming up at the Y junction of Kopri Village and Sector 12, Vashi, Koperkhairane village, MAFCO Market at Sector 18, Turbhe, Sector 21, Nerul NMMC, toilet close to the flyover at Belapur Ward and the already built toilet opposite the CBD Bus Depot. At every location did a survey, locals unanimously voiced that instead of constructing and spending money on new toilets, NMMC should draft a successful maintenance policy first. What’s more concerning is that the corrupt practices of NMMC have converted most public toilets as a den for illegal activities.
It may be recalled, that at that time when we met Addtl. City Engineer Surendra Patil – whose department is responsible for studying the locations where toilets are being built and making of the toilet proposals, he had no convincing reply to our questions and reports. Specifically when we questioned him whether it was against rules to erect toilets in areas that had illegal settlements like Sector 30, Vashi, the officer passed the buck of responsibility on another dept. However, the only NMMC representative who did not hesitate to accept that every expose of survey is correct was Dy. Mayor Shashikant Birajdar.
He confessed that most NMMC toilets are giving shelter and services to criminals, drug peddlers and anti social elements. The end result of all this is that an issue as grave as sanitation and public toilets has become a means of corruption while the NMMC is still nowhere close to making Navi Mumbai open air defecation free. That was the on public toilets that we aired last week. Taking cognizance of the report, NMMC Standing Committee Chairman Sandeep Naik took note of the seriousness of the issue since it is revolves around public health and sanitation. He himself took the matter up with administration in the weekly general body meeting. Here is a special report.
If you have the political will, you’ll always have a way to make things happen in the interest of the general public. Chairman Sandeep Naik reiterates this often at the weekly Standing Committee meetings of NMMC. This week again when no member uttered any word of discussion or debate on yet another proposal for a public toilet, Chairman Sandeep Naik himself brought up the subject of community health, sanitation and public toilets with the administration. The topic was raised when the proposal to build a 16 seater public toilet at the cost of Rs. 23 lacs 89 thousand 525 at an area on Palm Beach Road close to Karave village was brought for approval of the Standing Committee meet. Despite asking members twice if they wanted to discuss the issue of public toilets and sanitation, no Standing Committee member said a word compelling Chairman Sandeep Naik to himself ask the Commissioner to give an insight on the NMMC toilet vision for the information of Navi Mumbaikar.
NMMC Commissioner Vijay Nahata then gave an insight on the logic of building public toilets in bulk – with the latest being 28 proposals of toilets approved by the general body and standing committee meetings. Further, the Commissioner assured that members that since locations selected to erect public toilets were questionable; he has decided to re-scrutinize these locations and will stop the work in such places.
Addressing the subject of maintenance of existing public toilets, the Commissioner said that he has called for a meeting with his department officials and ward officers to work on it soon. `Concluding the discussion, Chairman Sandeep Naik said that it was in accordance of a state act to make the city open air defecation free that the NMMC was building public toilets in the city.
He too reiterated what the Commissioner said about building public toilets where needed but re-scrutinizing locations that were doubtful. The willingness that Chairman Sandeep Naik and Commissioner Vijay Nahata exhibit as a team will go a long way to address the grievances and suggestions of the people of the city through the voice of the media.
Youth leader Sandeep Naik, who has made NMMC Standing Committee Chairmanship all about people of Navi Mumbai, has done it again. Post our report on the upcoming public toilets and the urgent need to establish a maintenance policy – the Chairman took up the issue with the administration in the last standing committee meet in a bid to ensure that transparency and accountability prevailed over public issues, which was backed by Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nahata who assured all members of a re-scrutiny of the upcoming public toilets and putting a maintenance policy in place sooner than later.