Early this week, a businessperson from Pune Cantonment, Shrirrish Panhale, knocked at Pune’s civil court after the Pune Cantonment Board stopped him from renaming a public chowk on his father’s name; due to a resolution the latter has passed to not allow public amenities being named after any individual.
This episode reminded me that our dear Pune is infested with names of public gardens and public roads bear the names of relatives of our local corporators.
While thankfully, we have an impressive Japanese and Mughal Garden named after legendary litterateur Pu La Deshpande, there are several ones which you may not have heard about but have achieved legendary status by the sheer naming of a public amenity.
So, have you heard of public gardens like the Eaknath Bagul Udyan, Damodhar Ravji Galende Udyan, Late Prakash Bahirat garden, Late Shakuntala Nikam garden, Late Sentiba Mukinda Algude Garden, Late Shrimati Gangubai Dhumal Children Park, Late Sakhubai Rajushet Shinde Garden, Late.Anusaya Bankar Garden and so on? If you have not, no one cares; certainly not the politicians who have happily staked their ownership.
`What’s in a name?’’ said Shakespeare.
Well, a lot is at stake, going by the rivalry and one-upmanship that goes over naming public gardens, roads and chowks. If two corporators belong to the same ward, then each of them wants their family member’s name and a fight ensues.
One of the PMC officials once told me that they are always caught between th scissor, as at one end, the corporators fight and at the other end, citizens too bring up their list, (which is more wise, as it is often of names of our brave defence personnel or a prominent citizen).
Hence, to alleviate such altercations, in 2017, the PMC formed a Names Committee, which chalked out guidelines on norms to name public amenities.
But quite laughably much of it points out to how there should be consent amongst the corporators of that area but nothing about stringently banning names of family members of the corporators. So, even if these guidelines have been implemented, they are of zero value.
I remember, in the 1990s the Late Brig Grant had pointed out hat 16 roads in Dhole Patil Road area are names after different members of the local politician, Dhole Patil family. As per a news report in Pune Mirror, in 2014, Congress politician, Mahadeo Pathare insisted that the international skating rink, be made on his late father’s name, which was vehemently opposed by the citizens of the neighbourhood. The issue went up to the State Assembly and finally Ajit Pawar intervened and a generic name has been given to the rink.
So, why this narcissistic attitude of elected representatives who are mere custodians of public wealth?
Anna Hazare often points out that the people have forgotten that in a democracy, the people are the rulers and the elected representatives, humble servants who have been given custody of public money for public welfare. Instead, the political leaders have come to believe that they own their constituency and can usurp public money, public land and public utilities, as they will. It is in the silence of the people towards this social injustice and crime by the Netas, that they have become bold and brazen. This he said has led to mass corruption and bad delivery of most public projects and government schemes.
Raghuram Rajan had stated in one of his public speeches that, `the tolerance for the venal politician is because he is the crutch that helps the poor and underprivileged navigate a system that gives them so little access. This may be why he survives…While the poor do not have the money to “purchase” public services that is their right; they have a vote that the politician wants. The politician does a little bit to make life a little more tolerable for his poor constituents… For this, he gets the gratitude of his voters, and more important, their vote.’’
Even in a modern city like Pune, we have over 45% f people living in slums and of course political landlords are in plenty.
Citizens living in such neighbourhoods bank on their corporator/MLA for their basic necessities of food, shelter, water supply and electricity. So, it is beyond their space to get into whose names are tagged with which political family member for a garden or road.
It is saddening that even for this issue, citizens are expected to fight out. When will those elected by the people get ethical about their duties?
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,