#VinitasPune: Will Our City’s New Civic Chief Make Pune Truly Smart?

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Pune has a new municipal commissioner – Shekhar Gaikwad – whose unique model of an ideal public distribution system is still the talking point.

While this rural reform has earned him accolades, there is hope that he will carve a niche in his urban posting too and make Pune smart, in the true sense of the word! 

A municipal commissioner’s appointment in Pune is always the talk of the town, thanks to the alert citizenry that the city is famous for. The person occupying this position cannot isolate himself in his chair but has to continuously interact with civic-savvy citizens who will bring irregularities to his notice and even shower him with some good do-able ideas, which he will find irresistible to implement.

When the daring and controversial (for the government) Arun Bhatia became Pune’s municipal commissioner, citizens rallied behind him in large numbers when the local political leaders took strong objections to his demolishing illegal structures of the rich and famous including the then ace political master, Suresh Kalmadi.

When Ramanath Jha was the municipal commissioner, eminent citizens of the Express Citizens’ Forum interacted with him for the ban of six seater auto rickshaws, their entry of which could accentuate air pollution. Sure enough, convinced about the adverse effects, after studying about it, Jha took a stern stand because of which we do not have those hazardous six seaters mingling with the already heterogeneous traffic. 

When Mahesh Zagade was the municipal commissioner, he adopted activist Prashant Inamdar, founder of Pedestrian First’s simple solution to put up barricades on the roadsides of Laxmi Road so that pedestrians can freely walk. 

During Kunal Kumar’s tenure, technology was the buzzword and he was so active on Twitter that no matter where he was in the country (if on travel) he would promptly reply to your tweets, take action and revert of the action taken. I had personally experienced this, when I tweeted about our ward office not collecting garbage from our housing society.

The outgoing municipal commissioner Saurabh Rao has had to address issues pertaining to Smart City, the Metro, solid waste management that took a sharper focus after Modi’s Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan and also various issues that went to the National Green Tribunal.

Shekhar Gaikwad now enters the fray and there are many expectations from him, as he has carved a niche for himself, as not only an able administrator but also an innovative one.

His remarkable scheme of revolutionizing the otherwise corrupt Public Distribution System (PDS) took off when he was posted as Additional Collector, Nashik. 

The ”home delivery of PDS foodgrain” scheme, which began as a pilot project in Nashik district, is implemented in over 4,000 villages in over 35 districts of Maharashtra. Under this model, food grains are distributed through PDS, once in three months, six months or a year. This is in contrast to the monthly distribution system, which is expensive in terms of transportation and is also not effective in clearing stocks. Under the ”home delivery” scheme, BPL beneficiary families come together and demand three months ration in advance. People collect money and deposit it with the talathi or supply inspector. Once this amount is paid, they receive their quota of ration at the community centre of the village, thus avoiding the ration shop owner, who almost always has alleged links with the traders and indulged in black marketeering of the poor man’s rightful grain and sugar quota.

Gaikwad who was also appointed in the CMO and subsequently in the Sugar Commissionerate as Sugar Commissioner, will now be dealing with the active, interactive, studied Puneites who care much for their neighbourhood, city and its environment, as much as they care for their children and family.  

Already, RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar has shot out a note to Gaikwad warning him of the corrupt practices in the Pune Municipal Corporation; how a coterie of people run the show there and; get set to poison the new municipal commissioner’s ears with allegedly false stories, thus prejudicing his views and work.

He has appealed to him not to get affected by these distraction tactics and to be himself, like he always has been. 

Last but not the least, the Chief Minister too would be closely watching his moves, as Pune is in the threshold of many changes in terms of mass transportation and environment. 

So gear up citizens to pro-actively participate in Shekhar Gaikwad’s governance and play an important part in pro-active democracy.


#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same. 

Vinita Deshmukh

Vinita Deshmukh

Passion for the written word that comes alive, not only to tell a story, but to speak out loud about all that's good, bad and the ugly in society...

That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.

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Vinita Deshmukh