Wary of their party candidates' poll prospects getting affected due to slowdown of civic services, following staff crunch at the civic body, corporators on Wednesday demanded that the corporation make alternative arrangements to at least provide essential services properly.
Around 6,500 civic staffers have been deployed for preparation of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to be held across around 10,600 polling booths in city. Out of these, 3,000 staffers are from BMC's central offices and the rest have been deployed from wards for the past week.
The staff is expected to be deployed on poll duty for over a week, affecting civic services. In addition to this, more staffers, around 15,000, are expected be deployed eight to 10 days ahead of polling day, April 24. This will further affect services like water supply and clearing garbage in parts of city.
This has made the deliberative wing in the BMC apprehensive. "Essential civic services have been affected due to the deployment of civic staffers. Take the example of the Dadar pipeline which burst on Tuesday. Since there were no staffers to attend to the problem, water went waste. Recently, all crucial services have been affected. This has put us in a fix... on what ground we will seek votes for our candidates if the people themselves are inconvenienced?" asked Dilip Patel, BJP's group leader in the BMC.
Expressing similar helplessness, MNS group leader Sandeep Deshpande said, "People think the slowdown is because public representatives are not doing anything. At least, let the public know it's actually because of staff crunch."
Patel said the BMC must make alternative arrangement to ensure public works are not affected. "We understand poll duties are important. But then, serving people too is important. Hence, the corporation must find a way to deal with this," he added.
However, additional municipal commissioner Mohan Adtani expressed his helplessness in fixing the problem. He said governing agencies like BMC can't help but cooperate with the commission ahead of polls, considering norms under section 160 of the Representation of People Act, 1952. The section mandates the government or the BMC to make available premises for setting up polling stations or storing ballot boxes and providing vehicles for election purpose.
"The commission wanted us to deploy staffers for three weeks. Out of it, one week is already over. So, we hope our staffers will be back on duty soon. Until then, we will have to manage services with the manpower available," Adtani said.